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Chronic bronchitis is a progressive, recurring inflammation of the lower airways of the lungs called the bronchi and the bronchioles. The hallmark of chronic bronchitis is a persistent wet cough and difficulty with breathing that slowly gets worse over time. Chronic bronchitis is a kind of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Chronic bronchitis is a seriously disabling disease with the potential for major complications. Chronic bronchitis is often eventually fatal and is also a major cause of disability. Chronic bronchitis differs from acute bronchitis in that acute bronchitis is caused by a viral infection or bacterial infection and is a relatively short-term illness.
Chronic bronchitis develops most often as a result of smoking, but can also occur from long-term inhalation of irritants into the lungs, such as such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust. Chronic bronchitis can also develop due to long-term exposure to second hand smoke. The longer the lungs are exposed to smoke, pollution, or irritants, the higher the risk for developing chronic bronchitis.
In healthy lungs, air and oxygen pass through the upper respiratory tract and into the bronchioles and the alveoli in the lungs. The alveoli are tiny hollow sack-like structures where oxygen is absorbed in to the bloodstream. However, long-term inhalation of smoke or other irritants results in a loss of elasticity in the bronchioles and alveoli, destruction of the walls between alveoli, and swelling and inflammation. There is also an abnormally large amount of mucus production, which can block airways.
The symptoms of chronic bronchitis include shortness of breath, a loose cough that produces large amount of mucus, and chest tightness. Complications of chronic bronchitis can be serious, even life threatening, and result in additional symptoms. For more symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of chronic bronchitis.
Making a diagnosis of chronic bronchitis begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms, smoking history and exposure to lung irritants. A physical examination is also performed and includes listening with a stethoscope to the sounds that lungs make during respiration. Lung sounds that may point to a diagnosis of chronic bronchitis include wheezing and decreased lung sounds.
Diagnostic testing can include lung function tests, such as a spirometry, which measures how much air is moved in and out of the lungs. A chest X-ray and CT scan of the chest can evaluate such factors as the presence of other conditions that may occur with or worsen chronic bronchitis, such as pneumonia and congestive heart failure. An arterial blood gas tests a sample of blood taken from an artery for many parameters of effective breathing, including the oxygen level in the blood.
It is possible that a diagnosis of chronic bronchitis can be missed or delayed because the disease progresses gradually and because symptoms are similar to symptoms of other diseases and conditions. For more information conditions and diseases that can mimic chronic bronchitis, refer to misdiagnosis of chronic bronchitis.
There is no cure for chronic bronchitis. The damage done to the airways in the lungs by smoke or other irritants is permanent and is not reversible. However, with regular medical care and consistent patient compliance with treatments and lifestyle changes, the symptoms of chronic bronchitis can be minimized and progression of the disease can be slowed. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of chronic bronchitis....more »
A diagnosis of chronic bronchitis may be delayed or missed because the symptoms of chronic bronchitis generally develop slowly over years and may not be apparent initially. Some symptoms, such as fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and pallor, can be vague and attributed to other conditions as such as aging. Other symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, and chest pain as similar to ...more misdiagnosis »
The following medical conditions are some of the possible
causes of Chronic bronchitis.
There are likely to be other possible causes, so ask your doctor
about your symptoms.
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Listed below are some combinations of symptoms associated with Chronic bronchitis, as listed in our database. Visit the Symptom Checker, to add and remove symptoms and research your condition.
The goal of treatment for chronic bronchitis is to control symptoms to a degree that allows people with the disease to breathe easier and live as normally and actively as possible for as long as possible.
The key treatment and prevention for chronic bronchitis is to quit smoking. It is also important to eliminate or minimize exposure to potential lung irritants that can lead to or worsen ...Chronic bronchitis Treatments
Some of the possible treatments listed in sources for treatment of Chronic bronchitis may include:
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Some of the comorbid or associated medical symptoms for Chronic bronchitis may include these symptoms:
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Read more about causes and Chronic bronchitis deaths.
Chronic lung diseases hard to diagnose: Some of the chronic lung diseases are difficult to diagnose. Even the well-knowns conditions such as asthma or lung cancer often fail to be diagnosed early. Some of the chronic lung...read more »
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Chronic bronchitis, one of the two major diseases of the lung grouped under COPD, is diagnosed when a patient has excessive airway mucus secretion leading to a persistent, productive cough. An individual is considered to have chronic bronchitis if cough and sputum are present on most days for a minimum of 3 months for at least 2 successive years or for 6 months during 1 year. In chronic bronchitis, there also may be narrowing of the large and small airways making it more difficult to move air in and out of the lungs. An estimated 12.1 million Americans have chronic bronchitis. (Source: excerpt from Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema: NHLBI)
Chronic bronchitis, one of the two major diseases of the lung grouped under COPD, is... (Source: excerpt from Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema: NHLBI)
Chronic, irreversible obstruction of air flow from the lungs.
- (Source - Diseases Database)
A form of bronchitis characterized by excess production of sputum leading to a chronic cough and obstruction of air flow
- (Source - WordNet 2.1)
Condition characterized by persistent coughing, increased secretion from the bronchial mucosa, obstruction of the respiratory passages, scanty or profuse expectoration, and necrosis and fibrosis of the respiratory tract.
- (Source - CRISP)
The list below shows some of the causes of Chronic bronchitis mentioned in various sources:
This information refers to the general prevalence and incidence of these diseases, not to how likely they are to be the actual cause of Chronic bronchitis. Of the 19 causes of Chronic bronchitis that we have listed, we have the following prevalence/incidence information:
The following list of conditions have 'Chronic bronchitis' or similar listed as a symptom in our database. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.
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The following list of medical conditions have Chronic bronchitis or similar listed as a medical complication in our database. The distinction between a symptom and complication is not always clear, and conditions mentioning this symptom as a complication may also be relevant. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.
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This information shows analysis of the list of causes of Chronic bronchitis based
on whether certain risk factors apply to the patient:
Medical Conditions associated with Chronic bronchitis:
Bronchitis (273 causes), Lung symptoms (3280 causes), Respiratory symptoms (5166 causes), Bronchial symptoms (273 causes), Respiratory tract symptoms (5166 causes), Inflammatory symptoms (1736 causes), Infection-related symptoms (1293 causes), Throat symptoms (3410 causes), Mouth symptoms (6864 causes), Breathing symptoms (3381 causes), Breath symptoms (3023 causes), Head symptoms (10192 causes), Face symptoms (8109 causes)
Symptoms related to Chronic bronchitis:
Cold-like symptoms (712 causes), Throat symptoms (3410 causes), Bronchitis (273 causes), Cough (1407 causes), Respiratory symptoms (5166 causes), Common cold (712 causes), Upper respiratory tract infection (18 causes), Whooping cough, Smoker's cough (17 causes), Foreign body, Irritation due to pollution, Asthma (320 causes), Laryngitis (23 causes)
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Medical research papers related to Chronic bronchitis include:
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