Bronchitis is the inflammation of the bronchi or the tubular large air passages that lead from the trachea (otherwise called as windpipe) to the lungs which causes swelling up of the inner lining of the bronchi that thickens thereby narrowing the breathing passages. These irritated membranes also secrete extra mucus, which coats and sometimes clogs the small airways. Bronchitis can occur in two forms i.e, Acute bronchitis and Chronic Bronchitis.
Acute Bronchitis: This form of bronchitis is caused by viruses and bacteria and are generally typified by the symptoms of the common cold initially and later develops into painful coughing, wheezing, throat and chest pains and the production of pus-containing mucus.
Chronic Bronchitis: This form of bronchitis is identified by an excessive production of mucus and may occur due to recurrence of the acute form. It is a more serious condition and leads to a constant irritation or inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes over a long period of time. The patient coughs up excessive mucus secreted by enlarged bronchial mucus glands.
In case of acute bronchitis it is normally the viruses that causes the inflammation as is seen in most cold and flu patients which lasts for a specific period of time. Although sometimes it’s a bacteria-inflicted infection. Hence acute bronchitis is contagious in nature. It usually lasts for about 10 to 20 days.
A chronic bronchitis as the name suggests stretches over a prolonged period, from 3 months and sometimes even extends to a couple of years. Among the many causes that contribute to chronic bronchitis cigarette smoking whether active or passive is the primary reason behind the ailment. Apart from that air pollution and exposure to dust or toxic fumes and gases in the environment or workplace are some other major factors.
Some of the common symptoms among patients of either forms of bronchitis include:
- Production of mucus often variant shades of clear, white, and discoloured shades of yellow and green and in rare cases accompanied by streaks of blood
- Fatigue and Lethargy
- Sore Throat
- Runny or blocked nose
- Shortness of breath
- Slight fever and chills
- Chest discomfort caused due to congestion
- Body Aches
- Squealing or a whistling sound while breathing
- Cigarette Smoking whether active or passive
- Weak immunity levels
- Long term exposure to irritants
- Gastric or acid reflux
- Asthma and allergies
Based on the symptoms, including a history of their progression over time and physical examination of the patient, diagnosis of bronchitis can be ascertained by the doctor. The doctor will check the patient’s breathing through a stethoscope to determine any wheezing sound. Where the bronchitis becomes chronic the doctor, after a study of the symptoms and conducting their physical examination, may suggest going for a pulmonary function testing such as spirometry and also a chest X-ray.
Treatment: For treatment of Acute Bronchitis, it is mostly rest and over the counter medicines that are recommended by the doctors. Chronic bronchitis may be treated with a number of medications and in some instances oxygen therapy is carried out. In some cases pulmonary rehab may also be used to improve functioning of the lungs.