Information Source for Bronchitis

What is Bronchitis? Bronchitis is an inflammation of the main air passages to your lungs. Bronchitis causes a cough, shortness of breath and chest tightness. Coughing often brings up yellow or greenish mucus. There are two main types of bronchitis . . . acute and chronic.

Acute bronchitis is often caused by the same viruses that cause colds. It usually starts as a sore throat, runny nose or sinus infection, then spreads to your airways. It can cause a lingering dry cough, but it usually goes away on its own.

Chronic bronchitis is one type of COPD, which stands for . . . chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The inflamed bronchi produce a lot of mucus. This leads to cough and difficulty getting air in and out of the lungs. Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of Bronchitis. Breathing in other fumes and dusts over a long period of time may also cause chronic bronchitis. Treatment will help your symptoms, but chronic bronchitis is a long-term condition that keeps coming back or never goes away completely.

The treatment for bronchitis focuses on relieving your symptoms and easing your breathing.

Symptoms of Bronchitis

For either acute bronchitis or chronic bronchitis, signs and symptoms may include the following:

Acute bronchitis, produces a nagging cough that lingers for several weeks after the bronchitis breaks up. However, bronchitis symptoms can be misleading. You don't always produce sputum when you have bronchitis, and children often swallow coughed-up material, so parents may not know there's a secondary infection. You can develop chronic bronchitis without first developing acute bronchitis. Smokers have to clear their throats when waking up, which if continues for 3-months or more, may be chronic bronchitis.

Symptoms of Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is a long-term inflammation that leads to scarring of bronchial tubes, producing excessive mucus. Over time, the lining of the bronchial tubes thickens, and your airways eventually may become scarred. Signs and symptoms of chronic bronchitis may also include:

With chronic bronchitis, you're likely to have a duration when your signs and symptoms worsen. At those times, you may have superimposed acute bronchitis, either viral or bacterial, in addition to chronic bronchitis.

When Should you see a Doctor?

Acute bronchitis usually breaks up on its own in a few days. See your doctor if any of the following apply:

Causes of Bronchitis

Acute Bronchitis

The same viruses that cause colds often cause acute bronchitis. But you can also develop noninfectious bronchitis from exposure to your own or someone else's tobacco smoke and from pollutants such as household cleaners and smog.

Bronchitis may also occur when acids from your stomach consistently back up into your esophagus and a few drops go into your upper airway, a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease. And workers exposed to certain dusts or fumes may develop occupational bronchitis, an acute disease that generally clears up when exposure to the irritants stop.

Chronic Bronchitis

Sometimes inflammation and thickening of the lining of your bronchial tubes become permanent — a condition known as chronic bronchitis. You're generally considered to have chronic bronchitis if you cough most days for at least 3-months a year in two consecutive years. Often, however, smokers with chronic bronchitis cough every day, even if it's just to "clear their throats" in the morning.

Unlike acute bronchitis, chronic bronchitis is an ongoing, serious disease. Smoking is the major cause, but air pollution and dust or toxic gases in the environment or workplace also can contribute to the condition.

Risk factors of Bronchitis

Factors that increase your risk of bronchitis include:

Complications of Bronchitis

A single episode of bronchitis - Although a single episode of bronchitis usually isn't cause for concern, it can lead to pneumonia in some people. Older adults, infants, smokers and people with chronic respiratory disorders or heart problems are at greatest risk of getting pneumonia.

Repeated bronchitis - Take repeated bouts of bronchitis seriously. They may signal:

Also, if you have chronic bronchitis and you continue to smoke, your risk of lung cancer increases beyond the normal risk that smokers face.

Preparing for Doctor's appointment

You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. If you have chronic bronchitis, you may be referred to a pulmonologist, a doctor who specializes in lung diseases.

To get all the information you need from your doctor, it's good to be prepared for your appointment. The following will show you how:

Preparing a list of questions before your appointment will help you make the most of your time with your doctor. List your questions from most important to least important. For bronchitis, some basic questions to ask your doctor are:

Don't hesitate to ask questions during the appointment if you don't understand something.

What to expect from your doctor - Your doctor is going to ask you questions, such as:

What you can do to help ease your symptoms:

Tests and Diagnosis for Bronchitis

Your doctor may do the following to diagnose bronchitis:

Pulmonary function test - This test checks for signs of asthma or emphysema. During a pulmonary function test, you blow into a device called a spirometer, which measures the volume of air in your lungs after you've taken a deep breath and blown it out. The spirometer also shows how quickly you can get air out of your lungs.

The test is painless and takes just a few minutes. If you have repeated bouts of bronchitis and your doctor doesn't suggest a pulmonary function test, ask to have one done.

Treatments and Drugs for Bronchitis

The goal of treatment for bronchitis is to relieve symptoms and ease breathing. Sometimes, all you may need to recover from acute bronchitis may be:

Medications - In some circumstances, your doctor may prescribe medications:

Therapies - If you have chronic bronchitis, talk to your doctor about pulmonary rehabilitation. Pulmonary rehabilitation is a breathing exercise program in which you work with a respiratory therapist to help you learn to breathe more easily and increase your ability to exercise.

Lifestyle Changes & Home Remedies

Besides the basic treatments of rest, liquids and over-the-counter cough medications, these suggestions can help make you more comfortable, speed recovery and prevent complications of acute bronchitis and help control the symptoms of chronic bronchitis:

Prevention of Bronchitis

If you have frequent, repeated attacks of bronchitis, the culprit may be something in your environment. Cold, damp locations — especially combined with air pollution or tobacco smoke — can make you more susceptible to acute bronchitis. When the problem is severe, you may need to consider changing where and how you live and work.

These measures also may help lower your risk of bronchitis and protect your lungs in general:

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