What is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is a condition that causes inflammation in your bronchial tubes. These tubes are responsible for bringing air into your lungs.
Bronchitis can be either acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). The severity of the condition depends on what sort of bronchitis you have. (1)
It’s a condition which is considered quite common. However, age, smoking, pre-existing lung problems and certain professions can increase the chances of contracting this illness. (2)
Your bronchial tubes are large passages leading from your windpipe to your lungs. At the end of these tubes are alveoli. They can be described as sacs which expand when filled with air. Alveoli are responsible for passing oxygen into your blood. (3)
Bronchitis is caused when the bronchial tubes become inflamed. This can occur through a viral infection, or external irritants such as pollution.
The symptoms of bronchitis can consist of: (4)
Acute bronchitis is usually caused by infection as a result of a virus. It may be preceded by typical flu symptoms.
These can include fever, a runny nose, and sore throat. You might also suffer from vomiting or diarrhea.
A persistent cough is a typical sign of bronchitis. The cough may initially be “wet” and produce mucus.
Mucus which is green or yellow instead of clear can indicate a bacterial infection.
Eventually, the cough will turn dry, yet this symptom can last for several weeks.
Chronic bronchitis causes what is often called a smoker’s cough. Coughing can be accompanied by significant mucous production.
Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath can be caused by both acute and chronic bronchitis. However, with acute bronchitis this issue eventually resolves itself.
Chronic bronchitis can cause long term shortness of breath.
A telltale sign of bronchitis is a distinct wheeze. When you inhale and exhale, you may produce a squeaky whistling sound. (5)
Due to repeated coughing, you may experience discomfort in your chest and stomach.
This usually manifests as a sensation of sore stomach or chest muscles.
The area around your ribs may also be affected. (6)
There are two categories of bronchitis, acute and chronic. Although both conditions affect the bronchial tubes, they manifest differently.
The types of bronchitis and their progressions include:
Around 95 percent of acute bronchitis experienced in adults is caused by viruses.
You may initially have typical cold symptoms before acute bronchitis sets in. For example, you might experience a sore throat and runny nose.
As your bronchial tubes grow more inflamed, the classic signs of bronchitis will appear.
These usually include coughing up mucus, shortness of breath and fatigue.
Acute bronchitis is generally a self-limiting condition. This means it eventually goes away on its own.
Depending on the person, it can last between 10 and 20 days. Less frequently, it can persist for more than four weeks. (7)
Chronic bronchitis has a tendency to keep recurring. The typical bronchitis symptoms may never completely disappear, but grow better or worse periodically.
It can be caused by inhaling irritants long term, such as pollution or chemical fumes.
However, the primary cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking. (8)
Chronic bronchitis can occur in people of all ages. It occurs more frequently in individuals over the age of 45.
Women are more likely to receive a diagnosis of chronic bronchitis than men. (9)
This condition is classed as a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPDs usually grow worse with time and impair your breathing. (10)
Your bronchial tubes can sustain permanent damage. They can also remain in a state of constant inflammation, with mucus blocking the passage of air. (11)
There is no specific staging system for chronic bronchitis. As a COPD, the condition’s progress can be measured according to the GOLD scale.
This is the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) stages for COPD.
The GOLD scale measures your forced expiratory volume (FEV1). This is how much air you can blow from your lungs in 1 second: (12)
There is no sign of COPD of any sort. Your FEV1 is functioning normally.
FEV1 is rated at 80 percent or higher. The signs of COPD are mild.
COPD at this stage is moderate. FEV1 is at 50 to 80 percent.
COPD is severely impairing breathing by now. FEV1 is between 30 to 50 percent of normal capacity.
This stage is also known as end stage chronic bronchitis. FEV1 is at 30 percent or less, and blood oxygen levels are low.
Bronchitis is suspected when you present with typical symptoms. Your medical history will also be evaluated to rule out other conditions.
Your doctor will then perform a physical examination, using a stethoscope to listen for abnormal noises in your lungs.
You may also have to submit a mucous sample to check for bacteria. If your symptoms are severe, your doctor might suggest further tests.
These can include checking your blood oxygen levels through a blood test. Other tests include a chest x-ray or tests to evaluate lung function, such as FEV1. (13)
Acute bronchitis will usually run its course and reside without serious medical intervention.
Treatment for chronic bronchitis aims to reduce symptoms and improve breathing ability.
Treatment options for bronchitis include the following:
Rest and Fluids
Your doctor will likely recommend resting and fluids for acute bronchitis.
You might be prescribed a mild cough suppressant or inhaler if your cough is disruptive. (14)
Any form of bronchitis can be improved by avoiding irritants. It is very important to stop smoking if you have chronic bronchitis.
If you are exposed to chemical fumes or air pollution, try to minimize exposure. (15)
Bronchodilators are substances that dilate the bronchial tubes. They also help to relax the muscles in the lungs, promoting better air flow.
These drugs are typically used in the form of inhalers. Bronchodilators can be used to alleviate persistent coughing from acute bronchitis.
They can also be part of a long term treatment plan for chronic bronchitis. (16)
Corticosteroids are a type of steroid that lowers inflammation. These steroids work to reduce inflammation in the bronchial tubes from chronic bronchitis.
They can be taken orally, by injection, or with an inhaler. Corticosteroids can be used for several weeks or for maintenance therapy. (17)
Oxygen therapy is commonly used by patients with COPDs, like chronic bronchitis.
Oxygen is inhaled to improve breathing and replenish depleted oxygen stores in the body.
Using oxygen can improve a person’s ability to exercise and quality of sleep. It also boosts survival rates for individuals with COPD in general. (18)
Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program targeted at people with COPD and other chronic lung diseases.
With medical supervision, you will learn strategies to improve your quality of life. These can include physical exercise and breathing techniques.
You will be supported regarding coping with chronic bronchitis long term. You might also be taught good nutrition to boost general health. (19)
What is bronchitis?
Bronchitis causes inflammation in your bronchial tubes that can last for a short period (acute) or long term (chronic).
What are the signs of bronchitis?
The signs of bronchitis typically include coughing and mucus production. These symptoms might be preceded by cold symptoms (i.e. runny nose, sore throat, etc.). You may also experience shortness of breath and sore muscles.
How do you develop bronchitis? Bronchitis develops when your bronchial tubes become irritated or infected. Bacteria, viruses, and lung irritants like smoke can all provoke bronchitis.
How are you diagnosed for bronchitis? Bronchitis is usually diagnosed after a physical examination and reported signs and symptoms. If your bronchitis is severe, further tests may be done. These can include: chest x-ray, blood tests and lung function tests.
What is the best treatment for bronchitis? For acute bronchitis, you may receive an inhaler or medication to combat coughing. Chronic bronchitis can require bronchodilators, steroids, or oxygen therapy.
What are the long term complications of bronchitis? Chronic bronchitis can cause reduced lung function over time. (20)
Is bronchitis considered a disability? Recurring, severe chronic bronchitis can be classed as a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These are illnesses that affect your ability to breathe and damage your lungs. If your lung function is heavily impaired, you may qualify for disability. (21)
Is there any cure for bronchitis? Acute bronchitis usually resolves itself after 10 to 20 days. You may also cough for several weeks. Individuals with chronic bronchitis can alleviate symptoms with treatment and lifestyle changes. (22)
Is bronchitis life threatening? Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPDs) like severe chronic bronchitis can increase your mortality risk. (23)
Acute bronchitis will affect approximately five percent of adults each year. Although it can be disruptive, the condition is not considered particularly serious. (24)
On the other hand, chronic bronchitis can have serious long term consequences. Over time, it can result in permanent damage to your respiratory system. (25)
Irritants like dust, fumes, and pollution can increase the likelihood of bronchitis. These irritants can also worsen existing bronchitis.
The most significant risk factor for chronic bronchitis is repeatedly inhaling dangerous fumes. Smoking in particular significantly increases your chances of both forms of bronchitis.