Asthma and bronchitis are both conditions that can make breathing difficult. There are two basic types of bronchitis -- acute or short-term, and chronic or long-term. When a person has both asthma and chronic bronchitis, the condition is known as asthmatic bronchitis.
When we breathe, air flows in and out of the lungs through tubes called bronchioles. Asthma is a chronic or long-lasting condition that makes breathing difficult.
During an asthma attack, the airways in the lungs become inflamed and swollen. This swelling causes the lining of the bronchioles to produce excess mucus which clogs the airways and makes it harder for air to pass through.
At the same time, the muscles around the bronchioles can clamp down, which makes the air passages even smaller. It is possible for an asthma attack to be so severe that the bronchioles completely close down, which prevents breathing and leads to death.
Bronchitis is an inflammation that occurs in the main airways or bronchioles that carry air in and out of the lungs. Acute bronchitis is most often caused by a respiratory or bacterial infection.
Long-lasting, chronic bronchitis is defined as a cough that produces mucus and that occurs most days for at least three months out of the year for two years in a row. Chronic bronchitis is one form of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
It is generally caused by long-term exposure to something that irritates the airways. Cigarette smoke is the leading cause of chronic bronchitis. Other possible causes include pollutants, chemicals, dust, and other irritants.
Chronic bronchitis can also damage the cilia in the lining of the airways. Cilia are similar to hairs that act to push mucus and other fluids through the bronchioles so the fluids can be removed from the lungs. Chronic bronchitis can damage or destroy cilia which makes it harder to clear mucus out of the lungs.
About Asthmatic Bronchitis
Asthmatic bronchitis occurs when asthma and chronic bronchitis co-exist. The symptoms of asthmatic bronchitis are a combination of the symptoms of asthma and bronchitis, which may include:
• Shortness of breath
• Tightness in the chest or wheezing
• Excess mucus
Things that irritate the lungs or cause inflammation can be triggers for a flare-up of asthmatic bronchitis. Some possible triggers include:
• Air pollution
• Allergens such as dust, mold, or pollens
• Infections such as pneumonia, a cold, or the flu
• Changes in the weather
In general, asthmatic bronchitis is not contagious, because the condition is generally caused by inflammation caused by irritants, not by an infection. But some cases of bronchitis can be caused by either a bacterial or viral infection. In those cases, bronchitis is contagious.
If you have difficulty breathing or other symptoms of bronchitis, asthma, or asthmatic bronchitis, talk to your healthcare provider.
PubMed Health. Bronchitis. Web. November 28, 2011.
Medicine Net. Asthma Complexities. Dennis Lee, MD. Web. November 28, 2011.
Medicine Net. Chronic Bronchitis. Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD. Web. November 28, 2011.
eMedicine Health. Bronchitis. John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP. Web. November 28, 2011.
eMedicine Health. Asthma. George Schiffman, MD, FCCP. Web. November 28, 2011.
eHow Health. What Is Asthmatic Bronchitis?. Lori Newell. Web. November 28, 2011.
Reviewed November 29, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
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