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Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic Bronchitis: Introduction

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 »

Chronic Bronchitis: Chronic bronchitis is a chronic, ongoing, progressive disease of the lower respiratory tract in the lungs. It is one type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The hallmark of chronic bronchitis is a continuing loose, wet cough that produces excessive amounts of mucus.

It is a seriously disabling disease with the potential for major complications and can be fatal, especially when paired with emphysema, another serious respiratory disease and form of COPD. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, COPD is a major cause of disability, and it's the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Chronic bronchitis develops most often as a result of smoking, but can also occur from long-term inhalation of other irritants into the lungs. Chronic bronchitis most often develops when irritants are breathed into the respiratory tract and down into the bronchial tubes, small hollow passageways that branch off the main airway from the mouth and nose. Normally, air and needed oxygen pass through the bronchioles into the alveoli, tiny hollow sack-like structures in the lungs where oxygen is absorbed in to the bloodstream. When air is mixed with smoke or irritants, it can damage the lungs and their ability to take in enough oxygen. Long-term inhalation of irritants results in chronic irritation and inflammation of the bronchioles leading to excessive production of mucus, and thickening of the bronchial tubes, resulting in obstruction of airflow into the lungs.

Eventually, the lungs become scarred, and a chronic, ongoing cough develops. The excessive mucus production and inflammation of chronic bronchitis also creates a perfect breeding ground in the lungs for bacteria and viruses that can cause severe, even life threatening infections, such as pneumonia. Infections of the lungs can also further irritate and exacerbate (worsen) chronic bronchitis.

The longer the lungs are exposed to smoke or irritants, the more likely it is that you will develop chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis can affect people of all ages and it is more common in women than in men. ...more »

Chronic Bronchitis: Symptoms

The severity of symptoms of chronic bronchitis varies between individuals and the amount of lung damage that has been done. Symptoms are related to the lung damage, impaired breathing and the lower levels of oxygen in the blood that is the result of chronic bronchitis.

Typical symptoms include shortness of breath, especially with exertion, an ...more symptoms »

Chronic Bronchitis: Treatments

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 ...more treatments »

Chronic Bronchitis: Misdiagnosis

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 ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Chronic Bronchitis

Treatments for Chronic Bronchitis

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Chronic Bronchitis:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Chronic Bronchitis?

Chronic Bronchitis: Related Patient Stories

Chronic Bronchitis: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Chronic Bronchitis.

Alternative Treatments for Chronic Bronchitis

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Chronic Bronchitis may include:

Curable Types of Chronic Bronchitis

Possibly curable types of Chronic Bronchitis include:

  • Smoking induced Chronic bronchitis
  • Occupational exposure induced Chronic bronchitis
  • Air pollution induced Chronic bronchitis
  • more types...»

Rare Types of Chronic Bronchitis:

Rare types of Chronic Bronchitis include:

  • Alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency induced Chronic bronchitis
  • Cooking smoke induced Chronic bronchitis
  • Repeated lung infection induced Chronic bronchitis
  • Silicosis induced Chronic bronchitis
  • more types...»

Chronic Bronchitis: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Chronic Bronchitis:

Causes of Chronic Bronchitis

More information about causes of Chronic Bronchitis:

Disease Topics Related To Chronic Bronchitis

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Chronic Bronchitis:

Chronic Bronchitis: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Chronic Bronchitis

Sinusitis is overdiagnosed: There is a tendency to give a diagnosis of sinusitis, when the condition is really a harmless complication more »

Whooping cough often undiagnosed: Although most children in the Western world have been immunized against whooping cough (also called "pertussis"), this protection wears off after about 15 years. more »

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 more »

Chronic Bronchitis: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Chronic Bronchitis

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Chronic Bronchitis:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Chronic Bronchitis, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Chronic Bronchitis: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Latest Treatments for Chronic Bronchitis

Evidence Based Medicine Research for Chronic Bronchitis

Medical research articles related to Chronic Bronchitis include:

Click here to find more evidence-based articles on the TRIP Database

Chronic Bronchitis: Animations

Prognosis for Chronic Bronchitis

Research about Chronic Bronchitis

Visit our research pages for current research about Chronic Bronchitis treatments.

Clinical Trials for Chronic Bronchitis

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Chronic Bronchitis include:

Statistics for Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic Bronchitis: Broader Related Topics

Chronic Bronchitis Message Boards

Related forums and medical stories:

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Chronic Bronchitis, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about Chronic Bronchitis

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)

Definitions of Chronic Bronchitis:

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)


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