Bronchitis refers to a condition which is characterized by the inflammation of the mucous membrane and the inner lining of the bronchial tubes. Patients suffering from this condition tend to cough up discolored and thick mucus. There are two types of the disease which may be classified as either chronic or acute. In both cases, there is an inflammation and irritation of the respiratory lining. While acute bronchitis is typically caused by viral and bacterial infection, chronic bronchitis is caused by constant exposure to pollutants including cigarette smoke and air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.
Causes of Bronchitis :
The two types of Bronchitis are caused by different factors. These are as follows :
- Acute bronchitis is triggered by cold and often occurs during the course of other illnesses. Infection caused by virus and bacteria results in this condition.
- Chronic bronchitis is caused primarily by cigarette smoking. Exposure to dust, toxic gases and air pollution can also contribute to this case of bronchitis.
Symptoms of Bronchitis :
Symptoms of both acute and chronic bronchitis include one or many of the following :
- Frequent coughing and irritation of the respiratory tract.
- Thick and discolored mucus being coughed out. Occasionally there may be blood in the mucus.
- Shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing.
- A feverish feeling accompanied with occasional chills.
- General fatigue and loss of energy.
- Discomfort in the chest area.
While acute bronchitis has coughs which typically last several weeks, coughs associated with chronic bronchitis last for months and recur over many years.
Signs of Bronchitis :
If the symptoms persist and a lot of discomfort is felt, it may be possibly be a case of bronchitis. People who experience the following signs should consult a doctor as soon as possible:
- If coughing symptoms persist for more than three weeks.
- If the irritation and breathing difficulties prevent sleep.
- If coughing is accompanied with a fever higher than 100.40F.
- If coughing is accompanied with discolored mucus.
- If blood is present in the cough.
- If there is extreme wheezing or shortness of breath.
Tests for Detecting Bronchitis :
It is usually difficult to distinguish early Bronchitis with the symptoms of cold and viral fever. The disease is typically diagnosed when the symptoms persist even after the course of the infection is completed. Some of common tests used for the diagnosis of Bronchitis include:
- X-Ray of the chest area which helps determine the disease and also provides insight to other conditions like pneumonia and also the effects of smoking.
- Sputum tests of the mucus are collected and analyzed for allergies and other illnesses such as whooping cough.
- Pulmonary function test which measures the amount of air which can be contained in the lungs. This test also helps in determining asthma and emphysema.
Diagnosis of the Disease :
After the tests have been carried out, diagnosis of acute or chronic bronchitis can be confirmed. At this stage it becomes necessary to refer to pulmonologists and move on from the general medical practitioners. The pulmonologist will require all of the reports of the tests conducted. Information relating to recent illnesses and other medical conditions will also need to be disclosed. Any medication or supplements that are being used by the diagnosed patient will also need to be reviewed and considered.
Prognosis of the Disease :
Acute bronchitis has a fairly positive outlook. Most of the symptoms of the disease are completely cleared up over a period of time. In the case of chronic bronchitis, patients need to keep away from causes of irritation and pollutants. The cessation of smoking also prevents development of chronic bronchitis and also prevents development of other lung diseases such as Emphysema. Chronic bronchitis however lasts for some period of time and may lead to deterioration of lung conditions if not treated effectively.
Prevention of Bronchitis :
- Refraining from smoking.
- Getting pneumonia and flu vaccinations and shots.
- Wearing a surgical mask in areas of high pollution.
- Avoiding exposure to pollutants.
- Maintaining an overall good hygiene to prevent chances of illnesses which may trigger the disease.
Types of Bronchitis :
There are two types of Bronchitis as discussed earlier. These include :
- Acute Bronchitis : This condition is usually triggered by other viral and bacterial infections. Symptoms and conditions are similar to that of common cold or flu, however coughing and irritation persist for over three weeks. This is longer than the course of the illnesses which trigger the condition and indicate acute bronchitis.
- Chronic Bronchitis : Chronic bronchitis develops over time and is caused by exposure to pollutants and irritants. The primary cause of this condition is smoking, while exposure to other air pollutants over prolonged periods may also lead to development of the condition.
Both these types of bronchitis are associated with irritation, inflammation, wheezing and shortness of breath.
Bronchitis is a fairly common condition all over the world. While acute bronchitis generally disappears over time without major complications, pneumonia may be triggered in some patients. Very frequent recurrences of bronchitis could indicate development of other diseases including COPD.
Home Remedies :
There are a number of self-care methods which can provide relief to ailing patients. Some of these include :
- Avoiding exposure to lung irritants and wearing a surgical mask.
- Avoiding exposure to cigarette smoke.
- Using a humidifier to maintain moisture levels indoors.
- Wearing a face mask whenever going outside in the cold.
Acute bronchitis lasts for a period of about two weeks and does not require any medical treatment. In the case of chronic bronchitis, treatment may include antibiotics being prescribed by doctors, prescription of cough medicines to help provide relief, bronchodilator drugs and various other types of medication to reduce inflammation and to address other diseases such as COPD.
Acute Bronchitis is contagious because mostly viruses cause the inflammation. Cough is the common symptom and often it is associated with coughing up mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, and fever. It spreads while sneezing, coughing and contact by healthy persons with the contagious virus on surfaces like walls, taps and other public places. It is better to cover the mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing in order to avoid spreading the virus. Person is contagious as long as virus lives in the body, so proper care and medication is necessary to kill the virus.
Chronic Bronchitis is the disease caused by inflammation of lining of the bronchial tubes. Inflammation may last for months and it reoccurs year after year. It is usually caused by irritants like tobacco smoke, dust, air pollution, chemicals. These are not contagious, so obviously chronic bronchitis is also not contagious. Sometimes virus or bacteria may attack the chronic bronchitis patients as their immune system is less effective or weak because of long lasting symptoms of the disease. So one should ensure they are free from such attacks by virus or bacteria otherwise it worsens the symptoms and it may be contagious too.
Some Useful Questions To Ask Yourself If You Suspect Bronchitis :
- Are the symptoms occasional or do they recur?
- How many episodes of the symptoms have occurred?
- Has stamina been gradually on the decline not relating to age?
- Is there difficulty in sleeping due to shortness of breath?
- Do symptoms affect performance?
- Is wheezing and cold weather often a problem?
- Is the exposure to cigarette smoke and air pollutants high?
- Have vaccinations been taken?
These questions may help users detect bronchitis. It is a fairly common disease which affects many people.