Our bodies take in oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide every time we breathe. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) makes breathing difficult. Bronchitis can be one type of COPD.
What is bronchitis?
Air travels into the body through your nose or mouth. It passes through the larynx or voicebox, then through the trachea into the bronchi, which are the air passages in the lungs. Bronchitis is the condition when the tissue lining the bronchi becomes inflamed or swollen.
Swelling in the bronchi makes it hard to breathe and can also produce extra mucus, which can clog the breathing tubes. This causes a long-lasting cough as your lungs try to get rid of the excess mucus.
What is acute bronchitis?
The word acute is used by doctors to mean a condition that comes on quickly and does not last too long. So acute bronchitis develops quickly, but also goes away relatively quickly.
Inside the lungs, the bronchi look like branches of a tree. One large bronchi branches into smaller and smaller passages to allow oxygen easy access to the many blood vessels in the lungs.
Acute bronchitis is typically caused by a viral infection in the larger bronchi in the lungs. A sudden cough is the result of mucus accumulating in the bronchi, making it difficult for air to pass.
The viral infection causing acute bronchitis will often improve within ten days, although the cough may continue for several weeks. Antibiotics are not effective against a viral infection.
Other possible causes of acute bronchitis include exposure to irritants such as dust, air pollution or smoke, and bacterial infection. In the case of bronchitis caused by bacteria, the mucus may have a greenish-yellow color and a bad odor. If you have bronchitis caused by a bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to resolve the infection.
What is chronic bronchitis?
Chronic bronchitis is bronchitis that keeps coming back or never really goes away. This is a serious condition that is caused by constant irritation in the bronchial tubes. The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking, although the condition can also be caused by breathing dust or fumes over an extended period of time.
Chronic bronchitis is one possible type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Chronic bronchitis is diagnosed when a cough lasts at least three months for two consecutive years. Although symptoms may be better some days than others, chronic bronchitis cough always comes back and may also cause wheezing and difficulty breathing.
If you have chronic bronchitis, it is important for your continued lung function that you stop smoking. Treatment is available to ease the symptoms of chronic bronchitis, but once you have the disease it will never completely go away.
MedicineNet.com. Acute Bronchitis. Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM. Web. November 13, 2011.
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. What Is Bronchitis?. Web. November 13, 2011.
PubMed Health. Bronchitis. Web. November 13, 2011.
Mayo Clinic. Bronchitis. Web. November 13, 2011.
PubMed Health. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Web. November, 13, 2011.
Reviewed November 15, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
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