What is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is an infection of the lining you the main airways (bronchi) causing them to become inflamed and irritated. This results in coughing up thickened mucus. It often develops after cold or upper respiratory infection. Acute bronchitis is very common. Chronic bronchitis is defined as a productive cough that lasts at least three months, with recurring bouts occurring for at least two consecutive years.
Why does it occur?
Viruses are the most common cause of acute bronchitis, usually the same viruses that cause colds and flu. The most common cause of chronic bronchitis, more serious condition, is cigarette smoking. Also, air pollution, toxic gases contribute to the occurrence of chronic bronchitis.
Some factors that increase the risk of bronchitis are:
- Cigarette smoking – increase the risk of acute and chronic bronchitis and make them worse
- Weak immune system – due to another illness, cold
- Exposure to irritants – in case your work in a environment such as textiles, lung irritant can cause bronchitis
- Gastric reflux – repeated bouts of heartburn can irritate throat and make you more susceptible to bronchitis
Symptoms of bronchitis
For either acute bronchitis or chronic bronchitis, signs and symptoms may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Slight fever and chills
- Chest discomfort
If you have acute bronchitis, you might have symptoms of a cold as well, such as a mild headache or body aches. While these symptoms usually improve in about a week, you may have a nagging cough that lingers for several weeks.
If you have chronic bronchitis, you will probably have periods when your cough or other symptoms worsen and when symptoms subsidize. You might have an acute infection on top of chronic bronchitis. You probably have chronic bronchitis if cough:
- Lasts more than three weeks
- Prevents you from sleeping
- Is accompanied by fever higher than 100.4 F (38 C)
- Produces discolored mucus
- Produces blood
- Is associated with wheezing or shortness of breath
How is bronchitis diagnosed?
During the first few days of illness, it can be difficult to distinguish the signs and symptoms of bronchitis from those of a common cold. Doctors will listen to your lungs and made request chest X-rays if deem necessary. In case you have chronic bronchitis, you will be requested to do spirometry to check lung function as chronic bronchitis is a part of chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD).
How is bronchitis treated?
Most cases of acute bronchitis get better without treatment, usually within a couple of weeks. Most of bronchitis cases are caused by viruses, antibiotics are not initially recommended. However, in case your doctors suspect a bacterial infection, a course of antibiotics might be recommended.
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