Bronchitis: Introduction

Bronchitis is a general term for two diseases that cause swelling and irritation (inflammation) of the lower airways of the lungs called the bronchi and the bronchioles. Types of bronchitis include chronic bronchitis and acute bronchitis .

Chronic bronchitis is a progressive, recurring inflammation of the lungs, most often due to the damage that long-term smoking causes to the lungs. Chronic bronchitis is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and is most common in long-term smokers.

Acute bronchitis develops more suddenly and is most often caused by a viral infection or a bacterial infection that settles in the lungs acute bronchitis is a relatively short-term illness. Acute bronchitis is a common disease that can occur at any time of the year, but most cases happen in the winter months. It is most common in infants and young children and the elderly.

Typical symptoms of both types of bronchitis include an abnormally large amount of mucus production, which can block airways. This results in a wet cough and can lead to shortness of breath. especially in chronic bronchitis. In chronic bronchitis. shortness of breath gets progressively worse over time. In contrast, symptoms of acute bronchitis improve over time. Complications of both acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis include pneumonia. which can be serious, even fatal in some cases. For more symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of bronchitis .

People at risk for developing either type of bronchitis include smokers and people who are exposed to air pollution or lung irritants. People at risk for acute bronchitis include those who have diseases of the lungs, such as lung cancer. congestive heart failure. or COPD .

Making a diagnosis of bronchitis begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms and smoking history. A physical examination is also performed and includes listening with a stethoscope to the sounds that lungs make during respiration. Lung sounds that may point to a diagnosis of bronchitis include wheezing and decreased lung sounds.

In some cases, diagnostic testing can include lung function tests,

such as a spirometry, which measures how much air is moved in and out of the lungs. A chest X-ray and CT scan of the chest can evaluate such factors as the presence of other conditions that may occur with or worsen bronchitis, such as pneumonia and congestive heart failure. An arterial blood gas tests a sample of blood taken from an artery for many parameters of effective respiration, including the oxygen level in the blood.

It is possible that a diagnosis of bronchitis can be missed or delayed because some symptoms are similar to symptoms of other diseases and conditions. For more information conditions and diseases that can mimic bronchitis, refer to misdiagnosis of bronchitis .

Acute bronchitis is treated with medications and supportive care. There is no cure for chronic bronchitis. but with regular medical care and consistent patient compliance with treatments and lifestyle changes, the symptoms of chronic bronchitis can be minimized and progression of the disease can be slowed. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of bronchitis. more »

Bronchitis: The two main types of bronchitis are very different in their onset and treatment: acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is often related to an upper respiratory infection arising from a common cold or flu. Chronic bronchitis arises from various long-term problems, notably from smoking. more »

Bronchitis: Symptoms

Symptoms common to both acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis include a wet cough productive of phlegm and shortness of breath. In chronic bronchitis these symptoms are ongoing and get progressively worse over time. In acute bronchitis. these symptoms are short-term and improve over time.

Bronchitis: Treatments

The goal of treatment for bronchitis is to control symptoms, ease breathing, and minimize the development of complications, such as pneumonia.

One key treatment and prevention for both chronic bronchitis and acute bronchitis is to quit smoking. It is also important to eliminate or minimize exposure to potential lung irritants that can lead to or worsen. more treatments »

Bronchitis: Misdiagnosis

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