What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is inflammation of the mucous membranes of the bronchi, the airways that carry airflow from the trachea into the lungs. It can be divided into two categories, acute and chronic, each of which has distinct etiologies, pathologies, and therapies.

  • Acute bronchitis is characterized by the development of a cough, with or without the production of sputum, mucus that is expectorated(coughed up) from the respiratory tract. Acute bronchitis often occurs during the course of an acute viral illness such as the common cold or influenza. Viruses cause about 90% of cases of acute bronchitis, whereas bacteria account for fewer than 10%.
  • Chronic bronchitis, a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is characterized by the presence of a productive cough that lasts for three months or more per year for at least two years. Chronic bronchitis most often develops due to recurrent injury to the airways caused by inhaled irritants. Cigarette smoking is the most common cause, followed by air pollution and occupational exposure to irritants.

Causes:

Bronchitis is caused by viruses, bacteria, and other particles that irritate the bronchial tubes. 

Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a viral infection in the bronchi – often the same viruses that causes cold and flu. Bronchitis is actually part of the immune response to fighting against the infection, since additional swelling occurs in the bronchial tubes as the immune system's actions generate mucus. In addition to viruses, bacteria, exposure to tobacco smoke, exposure to pollutants or solvents, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also cause acute bronchitis. 

Chronic bronchitis is most commonly caused by cigarette smoking. However, it can also be the result of continuous attacks of acute bronchitis. Air pollution, dust, toxic gases, and other industrial fumes are known to be responsible for the condition.

Symptoms:

  • Inflammation or swelling of the bronchi
  • Coughing
  • Production of clear, white, yellow, grey, or green mucus (sputum)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and chills
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Blocked or runny nose
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