Bronchitis is a common condition that makes breathing difficult. Bronchitis that comes on quickly and resolves quickly is known as acute bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is a long-lasting condition that will never completely go away.
Bronchitis causes swelling or inflammation inside the airways in the lungs (bronchi) which closes down the air passages. Although chronic and acute bronchitis can have different causes, the symptoms of bronchitis are basically the same:
• Persistent cough – In acute bronchitis, the cough will resolve in about 10 to 20 days. In chronic bronchitis, the cough will be persistent and may never completely go away. Coughing may bring up mucus which is most often clear. While most causes are viral, yellow or green colored mucus may indicate a bacterial infection that could require antibiotics.
• Wheezing – whistling or squeaking sound when you breathe
• Shortness of breath
• Fever – usually low
• Chest tightness, pain, or discomfort
In cases of acute bronchitis, the original infection may go away quickly but a dry cough may last for several weeks.
Chronic bronchitis symptoms may also include:
• Swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet
• Blue lips indicating oxygen levels are low
• Respiratory infections – the irritation that causes chronic bronchitis can also make the lungs more vulnerable to other infections such as colds or flu.
Millions of people have bronchitis every year. Higher risk groups include infants, young children, and the elderly. Most cases occur in people who are over 45 years old, and women are twice as likely to have the condition as men. Smoking significantly increases your risk for bronchitis. People who work around dust, pollution, or chemical fumes may also be at higher risk.
Chronic bronchitis is one type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which is a long-term disease that can limit activities as breathing becomes more difficult. There is no cure for COPD and because symptoms may develop slowly, many people do not realize they have COPD or are even sick. If you have a persistent cough or difficulty breathing, talk to your healthcare provider.