Air and other particles constantly come in and out of the lungs, leaving them vulnerable to many different conditions. The tubes and compartments used to capture and store air get usage every single day, and this wear-and-tear, with the opportunity for outside agents to make their way into the lungs, puts them at risk.
One of the most common conditions that can affect the lungs is bronchitis, an inflammation of the bronchial tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. Bronchitis usually follows a bad cold or infection, although there are other ways it can develop.
What are some of the main causes, symptoms and issues with bronchitis?
Types and Causes
Bronchitis comes in two general forms: Acute bronchitis, which signifies singular cases that get better and go away, and chronic bronchitis, which is a more serious long-term condition that can last years or even decades. The causes for each type differ:
- • Acute: Usually caused by the same viruses that cause the common cold and the flu
- • Chronic: Cigarettes are the most common cause. Pollution and other air contaminants can also play a role
Symptoms for bronchitis can vary between cases, but some of the most common include:
- • Coughing and heavy mucus production
- • Tiredness
- • Fever
- • Chest pain
The symptoms are similar for both acute and chronic bronchitis cases, but they last longer and can be more severe for chronic sufferers. Anything beyond three weeks of moderate to severe symptoms is a sign you should see a doctor, or anytime you get a fever over 100 degrees or begin coughing blood.
In some extreme cases, bronchitis can lead to more serious pneumonia conditions.
There are several factors that can put you at higher risk for bronchitis. A few of these include:
- • Smoking: The number one cause of chronic bronchitis issues
- • Gastric reflux (heartburn): Can irritate the throat and make bronchitis more likely
- • Air contamination
- • Weak immune system: Sometimes caused by a recent event – this is why so many cases of bronchitis start out as a cold or flu, which weakens the body, before becoming more serious
Diagnosis and Treatment
Because it can be tough to figure out whether symptoms are signs of bronchitis or just a cold, your doctor might perform one of a few basic tests:
- • Chest X-ray
- • Sputum tests: “Sputum” is a word for the mucus you cough up, and it can be chemically tested
- • Pulmonary function test: This tests your overall lung function using a spirometer, a device you blow into
For cases of acute bronchitis that don’t resolve themselves in the first couple weeks, simple medications are usually prescribed – antibiotics, cough medicines or certain specialized medicines for people who have asthma or other lung conditions.
For chronic bronchitis cases, certain long term measures might be necessary. Breathing exercises and respiratory therapy are outlets for some people, and your doctor might recommend a humidifier in your home or a face mask when you walk outside into harmful air conditions. If you’re a smoker, your doctor will recommend that you moderate or stop your smoking, as no single factor contributes more to your chronic bronchitis.
Revere Health Pulmonology offers specialized treatment options for asthma, COPD, chronic cough and shortness of breath.
- “Bronchitis.” The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bronchitis/basics/definition/con-20014956
- “What is Bronchitis?” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/lung/understanding-bronchitis-basics