Bronchitis is a Common Lung Disease Causing Dyspnea, Cough
Bronchitis is one of the most common types of lung disease, but many people dismiss it as a bad flu, "smoker's cough," or the result of a bad cold. Bronchitis, however, is a potentially serious disease that can prove fatal in its chronic form.
Bronchitis is a lung disease that affects the bronchial tubes: the airways used to transport air in and out of the lungs. In response to inflammation, excess amounts of mucus, or phlegm, are produced. The mucus obstructs the airways, making it difficult to breath. Mucus may become infected with bacteria, which can lead to other types of lung disease, such as pneumonia.
Acute and Chronic Bronchitis
Acute and chronic varieties of bronchitis exist. Acute bronchitis is one of the most common lung diseases seen in the United States. Acute bronchitis begins suddenly, often after a cold, but usually only lasts a few weeks.
Two to three percent of the American population suffers from chronic bronchitis, and approximately eleven million Americans are diagnosed with chronic bronchitis annually. Chronic bronchitis may present as either recurrent bouts of acute bronchitis, or the lung disease may linger for long periods of time. In either case, chronic bronchitis eventually becomes a permanent lung disease that can significantly lower quality of life and shorten lifespan.
Dyspnea, Wet Cough, and Other Bronchitis Symptoms
Bronchitis is characterized by a number of symptoms. The most obvious is a productive, or "wet," cough that produces mucus. The mucus is often thick and discolored. Accumulating mucus also makes it necessary for people to frequently clear their throats.
Dyspnea is the medical term for shortness of breath. Excess mucus makes it difficult to breathe properly, so dyspnea is a common bronchitis symptom. A side effect of mucus-caused dyspnea is wheezing: the infected person makes a thin, whistling noise when they breathe out.
Bronchitis and Other Types of Lung Disease
Chronic bronchitis aggravates co-existing lung disease. Asthma symptoms worsen when bronchitis is present. Chronic bronchitis often exists alongside emphysema. When both types of lung disease are present, the resulting group of health complications is referred to as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Acute Bronchitis Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention
Acute bronchitis is more common than chronic bronchitis. However, recurrent episodes of acute bronchitis can eventually lead to chronic symptoms. A lingering wet cough and other bronchitis symptoms should always be brought to your doctor's attention.
Children and the elderly are most likely to develop acute bronchitis. Peak incidence rates occur under the age of 5 years and over the age of 65.
The Common Cold and Other Causes
Rhinoviruses, the viral family that causes the common cold, are most likely to trigger bronchitis. The common cold is an upper respiratory viral infection. Upper respiratory infections are responsible for up to 95 percent of acute bronchitis cases.
Cigarette smokers have a greater than normal risk of acute bronchitis. Smoking irritates the bronchial tubes, leaving them less resistant to the common cold and other viruses. People whose occupations expose them to large amounts of dust also have a greater risk of developing bronchitis. Coal miners and granary workers are especially at risk.
Acute Bronchitis Symptoms
Characteristic acute bronchitis symptoms include:
- "flu" symptoms
- "wet," mucus-producing cough
- discolored, thick mucus
- tight chest
Early symptoms of acute bronchitis can easily be mistaken for the common cold. Bronchitis may begin with a "tickle" in the throat. An early bronchitis cough, like a common cold cough, is dry. Within days, or sometimes even hours, the cough begins to produce mucus.
A Lingering Cough
Bronchitis symptoms generally clear up within a few weeks. The cough, however, may take over a month to clear up. Any cough that lingers more than a month after other bronchitis symptoms have disappeared should be evaluated by a doctor. The cough may be an indication of asthma or pneumonia. Asthma should also be considered if acute bronchitis occurs frequently.
Treatment Options for Bronchitis Symptoms
The common cold is usually caused by a viral infection, which does not respond to antibiotics, so acute bronchitis must usually run its course. However, a bad cough producing foul-smelling or blood-tinged mucus, or associated with high fever can sometimes be due to a bacterial infection. When in doubt, visit your doctor who can prescribe antibiotics if needed. If due to a virus, treatment is usually confined to alleviating bronchitis symptoms. Possible treatment strategies include:
- maintaining or upping fluid intake
- resting until fever breaks
- using a cool mist humidifier to soothe the bronchial tubes.
In some cases, bronchodilators may be prescribed to open the lung's airways and help move mucus out of the bronchial tree. Bronchodilators are the inhaled medications used to treat asthma.
The common cold and other upper respiratory viruses can be spread by sneezing, coughing, or by touch. Washing hands regularly and thoroughly helps reduce the risk of contracting a cold or other virus.
Occupational exposure to dust or fumes should be avoided whenever possible. Wear a respirator or protective face mask whenever working with substances that can irritate the bronchial tree. Smokers should quit smoking.
Symptoms and Health Complications of Chronic Bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis is defined as a mucus-producing cough that cannot be explained by other health problems, and which lasts for at least three months of the year, for at least two consecutive years. Chronic bronchitis is incurable, and causes a number of serious health complications as it progresses.
Chronic Bronchitis and Lung Health
Chronic bronchitis causes inflammation of the bronchial tubes: the airways responsible for moving air in and out of the lungs. Chronic inflammation eventually scars the bronchial tubes.
In response to inflammation, excessive amounts of mucus are produced. The mucus clogs the already damaged bronchial tubes, making breathing difficult. Less airflow restricts the ability to clear the airways of mucus, creating a good environment for bacterial growth.
Symptoms of Chronic Bronchitis
A persistent, "wet" cough is the primary symptom of chronic bronchitis. The cough may appear after a cold. With every cold or upper respiratory infection the cough lasts longer, until finally the cough is a permanent symptom. Many people don't seek treatment simply because they have become used to coughing. People who smoke cigarettes may dismiss chronic coughing as "smoker's cough."
Other symptoms of chronic bronchitis include:
- shortness of breath
- swelling of the ankles, feet, or legs
- thick, discolored sputum/phlegm
- tightness in the chest
Cigarettes, Smoking, and Chronic Bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis usually affects people over the age of forty who are long-term cigarette smokers. Cigarette smoking irritates the bronchial tubes and leaves them vulnerable to infection and inflammation.
Quitting cigarette smoking is the most effective way to slow the progression of chronic bronchitis.
Chronic bronchitis causes serious health complications. Mucus accumulation increases the risk of lung infections and pneumonia. Years of labored breathing may result in heart failure, especially if oxygen levels in the blood drop to dangerously low levels.
Cigarette smoking, and exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke, weakens the already damaged lungs of chronic bronchitis sufferers. Exposure to cigarette smoke increases the risk of secondary health complications, including pneumonia.
COPD and Chronic Bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis can result in a lung disease referred to as COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD is an umbrella term for a number of health complications that affect the lungs. While the condition can be caused by chronic bronchitis alone, COPD is more often caused by a combination of chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Although COPD has no cure, treatments are available that can slow the progression of the disease. About COPD discusses the causes and treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in greater detail.
Causes And Risk Factors For Chronic Bronchitis
Cigarette Smoking and Exposure to Other Irritants is Key
Chronic bronchitis occurs when the bronchial tubes become irritated and inflamed, resulting in a chronic cough and other bronchitis symptoms. The inflammation and resulting mucus production damage the cilia, the fine hairs responsible for moving material out of the airways. As the cilia are damaged and lose their ability to function, mucus plugs the airways, obstructing breathing.
Cigarettes and Smoking: The Primary Cause of Chronic Bronchitis Symptoms
Smoking cigarettes is the primary cause of chronic bronchitis symptoms. Long-term use of cigarettes (or exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke) irritates the bronchial tubes and damages the sensitive cilia. It may take many years for cigarettes to do this damage; chronic bronchitis is usually diagnosed in smokers after the age of forty.
Cigarettes and smoking are often associated with a chronic cough. This chronic cough is often a symptom of bronchitis. This "smoker's cough" is a clear sign that cigarettes are irritating the airways.
Many smokers dismiss a chronic cough as a natural consequence of smoking cigarettes, and act as if there is nothing to be done about it. Ignoring chronic bronchitis symptoms only makes them worse over time. Quitting cigarettes, while a difficult goal to achieve, reduces the severity of bronchitis symptoms, including the wet chronic cough. Helpful tips on how to successfully stop smoking cigarettes are available at Feel Better: Quit Smoking.
Although cigarettes cause chronic bronchitis in most cases, other irritants may also be responsible for bronchitis symptoms. Possible causes include:
- bacterial infections and microorganisms
- chemical fumes
- environmental pollution.
Asthmatic Bronchitis and Bronchitis Symptoms
Asthma may be the cause of apparent chronic bronchitis symptoms in children and teenagers. Severe chronic asthma can cause permanent airway obstruction, resulting in a health condition known as asthmatic bronchitis. Asthmatic bronchitis has many of the same symptoms as chronic bronchitis. More information on this topic is available on Asthma page.
Chronic Bronchitis Risk Factors
- smoking cigarettes
- over forty years old
- exposure to occupational hazards
- recurring lung infections.
Medical Diagnosis of Bronchitis Starts with a Physical Exam
Obstructive Lung DiseasesReaching a medical diagnosis of chronic bronchitis is a process of elimination. Other possible lung diseases must be ruled out to arrive at a diagnosis of bronchitis. In most cases of chronic bronchitis, symptoms of emphysema are also discovered during the medical diagnosis. When both diseases co-exist, the condition is referred to as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
Medical History: Listing Symptoms
Gathering a medical history of symptoms is the first step in a chronic bronchitis diagnosis. Characteristic symptoms of chronic bronchitis include a wet cough that produces mucus, shortness of breath, wheezing, and frequent throat clearing.
How long symptoms have been experienced is especially important. A medical diagnosis of chronic bronchitis can only be made if coughing and other symptoms have been present for at least three months out of the year for two years in a row.
Physical Exam: How Well Do Your Lungs Function
During the physical exam, the doctor will use a stethoscope to listen to lung sounds. The physical exam may reveal sounds of wheezing, a whistling sound in the lungs. Wheezing is due to inflamed airways and the accumulation of mucus in the bronchial tubes. If the physical exam reveals abnormal lung sounds consistent with a medical diagnosis of chronic bronchitis, a spirometry test may be ordered.
Spirometry measures lung function. During a spirometry test your breathing is monitored as you breathe into a tube attached to a spirometer. The spirometry machine measures lung volume, and how easily air travels through the lungs. This provides information necessary to make a medical diagnosis. If the spirometry results and the physical exam suggest a need, further testing may be ordered.
Additional Testing: Chest X-Rays and Mucus Analysis
Sputum tests: A sputum test requires a sample of mucus. The mucus is analyzed for signs of infection that may be responsible for symptoms. Excess mucus is an inviting breeding ground for bacteria.
Exercise testing: This provides additional information about lung function.
Pulmonary Function Tests: In addition to spirometry, pulmonary function tests measure how effectively the lungs can ventilate gases. For example, to illustrate how effectively gases are passing from the lungs to the bloodstream the carbon monoxide-diffusing capacity can be measured. Chronic bronchitis sufferers often have a decreased diffusing capacity.
Blood gas readings: Severe symptoms may require blood gas readings to determine the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. Low levels of oxygen require treatment with an oxygen mask.
Chest x-rays: Chest x-rays are used during a medical diagnosis to rule out other possible symptom causes, including pneumonia and lung cancer.
Bronchitis Treatments Include Medications, Smoking Cessation
Chronic bronchitis cannot be cured: treatment concentrates on slowing disease progression and providing symptom relief. Different treatment strategies and medications are used depending on individual need and the stage of the disease. No matter how severe chronic bronchitis symptoms may be, however, the treatment most often prescribed to smokers is clear: quit smoking.
The Best Treatment: Quit Smoking
Smokers have high incidence rates of chronic bronchitis and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) compared with nonsmokers. Once people quit smoking, chronic bronchitis symptoms lessen and the disease's progression slows.
Most smokers are well aware of the health risks associated with smoking. Smokers are equally aware just how difficult it is to quit smoking. When you decide to quit smoking, don't try to do it alone. Smokers can get help and support from their family members and friends. Some smokers find it easier to quit smoking if they do so with others: support groups for smokers trying to quit are available in many areas.
Ask your doctor to help you quit. Some medications, including nicotine "patches," and some antidepressants, can help you quit smoking. If you're living with chronic bronchitis, quitting is the best treatment available.
Inhaled bronchodilators, the same medications used in the treatment of asthma, may also be used to alleviate bronchitis symptoms. Bronchodilators allow the airways to expand, making it easier to breathe. The medications also stimulate the muscles responsible for breathing. Examples of inhaled bronchodilator medications include beta-agonists, ipratropium bromide, and theophylline.
Anti-inflammatory corticosteroid medications are sometimes used to alleviate chronic bronchitis symptoms. Clinical trials have proven that inhaled steroids are useful in some patients for the treatment of COPD, especially in high doses.
Long-term use of high-dose corticosteroid medications can produce a number of severe side-effects, such as osteoporosis and a weakened immune system.
Clinical trials are investigating the effectiveness of other anti-inflammatory medications for bronchitis treatment. A group of medications known as phosphodiesterase inhibitors is currently being evaluated for bronchitis treatment, and may one day offer an alternative treatment to steroids.
Mucolytic medications break up mucus, making it easier to clear the bronchial tubes. Mucolytic medications such as N-acetylcysteine and guaifenesin are sometimes used in the treatment of chronic bronchitis.
COPD Treatment Strategies
When chronic bronchitis coexists with emphysema, the resulting set of symptoms is referred to as COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD treatment often employs the same strategies and medications as chronic bronchitis treatment. In addition, the following treatment options are often recommended.
- breathing exercises
- flu shots
- oxygen masks
- pneumonia immunizations
- lung transplants.
Bronchitis related Brand Names:
|Drug Name||Comments / Reviews||Rating||Score|
|Amoxicillin (West Ward)||0||0.00|
|Amoxicillin / Penamox / Ultramox||0||0.00|