Chronic bronchitis is a condition in which the airways in the lungs become inflamed. In chronic bronchitis, the condition lasts for a long time or continues to recur. Chronic bronchitis is one form of an illness called
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
When these airways become inflamed or irritated, thick mucus forms inside the airways. This makes it difficult to breathe.
Prognosis depends on the severity of the bronchitis. If you have mild or moderate chronic bronchitis, you can usually keep the condition well-controlled with medication and therapy to improve lung function. If you have severe chronic bronchitis, you may have a more difficult time controlling symptoms.
The best ways to improve prognosis of chronic bronchitis is to begin treatment early and
Cigarette smoking is the single greatest risk factor for developing chronic bronchitis. The more you smoke and the longer you smoke, the greater your risk is of developing chronic bronchitis. Frequent and long-term smoking also increases the risk that the chronic bronchitis will be severe.
The following factors may also increase your chance of developing chronic bronchitis:
Long-term exposure to chemicals, dust, and other substances that have been inhaled
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, especially after mild activity or exercise
Recurring respiratory infections that cause symptoms to worsen
Wheezing when breathing
Swelling of the ankles, feet, and legs on both sides
To diagnose chronic bronchitis, symptoms of productive cough must have been present for three or more months in at least two consecutive years, and not have been caused by another condition. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include the following:
Breathing tests to check lung function
Arterial blood gas tests
—a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the chest
Blood tests to determine
complete blood count
and oxygen saturation of the blood
Exercise stress testing to test lung function
of the chest—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the chest
There is no cure for chronic bronchitis, but there are treatments that can reduce symptoms and improve lung function. The best way to reduce symptoms is to stop smoking.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
Short acting bronchodilator medications may be prescribed to help open the airways in the lungs and improve breathing. These may include:
Antibiotics are rarely prescribed to treat bronchitis. But, they may be needed to treat a lung infection that often accompanies the illness. A small percentage of patients may need chronic antibiotic therapy.
Oxygen therapy can restore oxygen to parts of the body depleted because of chronic bronchitis.
Breathing exercises—These can help improve lung function. They are usually done under the supervision of a respiratory therapist
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a