Bronchitis

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What is it?

There are 2 categories of bronchitis: acute and chronic. Both affect the airways found in the trachea, known as the bronchi. They affect them through inflammation of the bronchi’s mucous membranes.

Acute bronchitis usually comes on when you have a cold or the flu and will generally last for about the same period of time. Now, chronic bronchitis is listed under the family of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) and can last anywhere from up to 3 months to 2 years.

Causes

Acute bronchitis can be caused by viral or bacteria infections. However, bronchitis is more often than not caused by viruses.

It is estimated that about 9 out of 10 incidents of bronchitis are from viruses. Viruses that cause bronchitis include: coronaviruses, rhinoviruses, metapneumoviruses, adenoviruses, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza, and parainfluenza virus. Acute bronchitis generally sets in when an individual has a cold or the flu.
About 1 out of every 10 cases of acute bronchitis is caused by bacteria. Bacteria such as chlamydophila pneumoniae, mycoplasma pneumoniae, streptococcus pneumoniae, bordetella pertussis, and haemophilus influenza can all cause acute bronchitis.

Chronic bronchitis is generally caused by smoking however, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide are also known to cause chronic bronchitis. The last two are generally due to work place hazards that the individuals are exposed to. In some cases, people who live in areas with extremely bad air pollution can get chronic bronchitis.

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Symptoms

The main symptom of acute bronchitis is coughing. Other symptoms may include: chest pain, sputum production, wheezing, fatigue, nasal congestion, malaise, pleurisy, shortness of breath, sore throat, and runny nose, to name a few.

WebMD suggests that you call emergency services if you experience severe difficulty breathing, if you are coughing up lots of blood, or if you’re having chest pain that feels similar to having a heart attack.

The main symptom for chronic bronchitis is a productive cough. This cough can last up to 2 years. The shortest time is around 3 months. Other symptoms of chronic bronchitis may include shortness of breath and wheezing. These two symptoms generally occur when the individual overexerts themselves or is in an environment with less than average oxygen supply. Sputum production is also a symptom of chronic bronchitis. Individual sufferers of chronic bronchitis may find increased sputum distribution when they awake from sleep. They may also find that it changes in color, into green and yellow; sometimes with spots of blood in it.

Diagnosis

Acute bronchitis can be caught by your doctor in a routine physical examination. WebMD says that internists, nurse practioners, physician assistants, and pediatricians are all capable of diagnosing bronchitis. As bronchitis shares many of the same symptoms as other diseases such as pneumonia, whooping cough, emphysema and asthma, several tests must be taken to rule them out. Tests include: an x-ray to check for pneumonia, a sputum culture to check for whooping cough, and a pulmonary function test to check for emphysema or asthma.

Pulmonary function tests are used to determine if an individual has chronic bronchitis. This is a test to see the amount of air left in the lungs after a person exhales. Generally, a person without chronic bronchitis will have some remaining air, while a person with chronic bronchitis will have none at all.

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Treatment

As mentioned earlier, only about 1 out of 10 instances of acute bronchitis are caused by bacteria. So antibiotics should be used only about 10% of the time. Using antibiotics for a viral infection will only cause more problems. For instance, they will help build up a resistance in the body to antibiotics, which increases the likelihood of getting sick and, even, dying in the future.

For the 9 out of 10 cases of acute bronchitis that involve virus infections, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are recommended. Their purpose is for treating the sore throat and fever that comes along with the bronchitis. However, bronchitis is not known for sticking around very long, so many people end up not using any drugs to treat it. They just wait and sweat it out.

Treatment for chronic bronchitis can include surgery, steroids, anticholinergics, mucolytics and supplied oxygen. With surgery, the 2 most common are lung volume reduction and lung transplant. The last is obviously part of a worse case scenario and are for those who face the likelihood of death. Steroids, anticholinergics and mucolytics are all types of drugs found in inhalants that the sufferer can take. These inhalants do not help to cure the chronic bronchitis itself but, rather, they are used to treat different aspects of the disease to help alleviate some of the pain and suffering. Supplied oxygen are for those who find the amount of carbon dioxide increasing in their blood stream as a result of reduced oxygen intake. The use of supplied oxygen can help to lengthen their lives.