In general, bronchitis is the inflammation of the lungs’ primary air passages and may either be acute (short-lived), or chronic if the ailment lingers for a longer period of time and it usually recurs. Acute and chronic bronchitis symptoms may be similar, the most common of which is mucus-producing cough.
Chronic Bronchitis Symptoms
Common symptoms of chronic bronchitis (which also appear in acute cases) include fatigue, wheezing, chest discomfort, fever, breath shortness that becomes worse with mild activity or physical exertion, and cough that comes with mucus (it is probably bacterial infection if the mucus produced is yellow-green in color).
Additional chronic bronchitis symptoms may also appear including having frequent respiratory infections like flu or colds; swelling on the leg, ankle, and feet; and low oxygen levels resulting to blue colored lips. In the case of acute bronchitis, nagging cough may still linger even several weeks after the bronchitis has cleared.
Chronic Bronchitis Causes
Smokers; people with lung or heart diseases; and infants, young children, and the elderly are prone to acute bronchitis. Usually, it ensues after a viral respiratory infection. The disease initially affects the throat, nose, and sinuses after which it spreads to the lungs. In some cases, a secondary bacterial infection develops in the air passages. This means that aside from the virus, the airways also get infected by bacteria.
Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is a long term condition. Patients suffer from cough that comes with excessive mucus. A patient who has a persistent mucus-producing cough for a good part of the month for three consecutive months is usually diagnosed with chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is considered as a kind of “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease” (COPD) just like emphysema. Factors like allergies, air pollution, infections, and some specific occupations (like textile manufacturing, grain handling, and coal mining) can worsen a particular bronchitis condition.
Chronic Bronchitis Tests and Examinations
In determining the existence of bronchitis, a medical professional listens to the lungs through a stethoscope. Rales or abnormal lung sounds, and other irregular breathing sounds may be observed. Other diagnostic procedures include chest x-rays, lung function tests (to get overall patient outlook and other useful diagnostic information), pulse oximetry (to help determine existing blood oxygen levels), and taking of sputum samples (to check for bacterial infections or inflammation signs).
Chronic Bronchitis Treatment
Antibiotics are not necessary for acute bronchitis if it is caused by a virus as the infection will often leave on its own after several days. For relief, the patient must have sufficient rest, drink lots of fluids, refrain from smoking, and utilize steam or humidifier in the bathroom. If there is fever, acetaminophen or aspirin may be taken. However, children must not be given aspirin.
If acute or chronic bronchitis symptoms do not get better, the physician may recommend the use of an inhaler to open up the air passages especially if there is wheezing. If a secondary bacterial infection is present, the doctor may prescribe some antibiotics although they are usually not recommended nor required.
Persons in the advanced stages of chronic bronchitis have a poor chance of recovery. The key is in the early recognition of chronic bronchitis symptoms and immediate treatment. Combined with total abstinence from smoking, proper treatment can drastically improve the chances for a favorable outcome.
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