Chronic Bronchitis FAQ

What is chronic bronchitis?

Imagine your bronchial tube as an airway passage that carries air to and from your lungs. 

Bronchitis is simply  an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes.1

In order words, Bronchitis occurs when your bronchioles get swollen, inflamed and irritated. This condition is often characterized by excessive production of mucus.

Bronchitis could be acute or chronic. It occurs sometimes due to viral infection hence it can be called a chest cold.

Bronchitis affect individuals of all ages however it is mostly common in women than men.

How does chronic bronchitis differ from emphysema?

 Emphysema and bronchitis both belong to the disease called Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease(COPD). They are so called because in both cases there is usually obstruction in the flow of air to and from your lungs. Although the symptoms of bronchitis and emphysema are similar, the underlying causes of both diseases are different.

Bronchitis is caused by inflammation of the bronchial tubes while emphysema is caused by damage to the air sacs (alveoli) in the lung which eventually leads to inflammation of the alveoli.

With bronchitis, there is an increased production of mucus in the bronchioles while with emphysema, the air sacs(alveoli) lose their elasticity thus making them retain more air than necessary.1

How do you get chronic bronchitis?

Bronchitis could be caused by one or more of the factors below;

  • Smoking
  • Inhaling polluted or contaminated  air
  • Viral infections in the lung caused by adenovirus, measles viruses and or influenza viruses 
  • Bacterial infection in the lungs, caused by typical or atypical bacteria. Typical bacteria are bacteria that are common and easily detected while atypical bacteria are bacteria that are not easily detected by standard diagnostic test kits.
  • Allergies 
  • Other disease conditions like Asthma.1

Can chronic bronchitis be cured?

Chronic bronchitis  is a progressive disease that gets worse over time. Once you have developed and are diagnosed of  bronchitis, it  cannot be cured. However, certain drugs are used to manage patients with chronic bronchitis, these drugs include,

  • Corticosteroids; which relieve swelling and inflammation of your airways.
  • Bronchodilators; they enhance the opening of your airways ensuring increased airflow in and out of your lungs.
  • Oxygen supplementation1

How long does chronic bronchitis usually last?

Chronic bronchitis confirmed in adults is often diagnosed when your symptoms have lasted for 2-3 months consecutively within a 2-year period.1

What happens in chronic bronchitis?

For you to live, your body and organs need to function well. Without oxygen this is impossible. Our lungs are specially designed to carry air in and out of the body. When you inhale air through your nose, the air travels through your throat(Pharynx), voice box(larynx), windpipe( Trachea) and then your bronchial tubes. Each bronchial tube carries air to your left and right lung respectively. 

Your bronchial tubes further transport the inhaled air to your bronchi , bronchioles and finally tiny air sacs called alveoli.

Once air get to your aveoli it is immediately transported by blood and circulated to other parts of your body.1

Chronic bronchitis is often characterised by 3 features observed in your bronchial tubes,

  • Inflammation
  • Excessive production of mucus which could range in colour from yellowish to greenish.
  • Narrowing of the air passage way.

These features make it impossible for air to freely get to your lungs and subsequently other part of your body. Chronic bronchitis is also characterized by persistent  cough and wheezing. Coughing is your body’s natural mechanism of trying to get rid of anything in your airway.1

How serious is chronic bronchitis?

Chronic bronchitis is a progressive disease that can be fatal when it escalates to COPD. Chronic bronchitis cannot be cured but it can be treated. Treating doctors would prescribed medication that would assist in making breathing easier.1

How do you treat chronic bronchitis at home?

In addition to medications prescribed by your doctor, a few home practise and remedies will help ease your symptoms and make breathing easier.

You should practise the following : 

  • Use a humifier or a vaporizer .
  • Avoid cold food and drinks. Ensure you consume warm drinks and meals.
  • Always stay and remain hydrated to assist with clearing up mucus or phlegm,
  • Exercise moderately to help loosen mucus in your lungs.
  • Sleep with your head propped up with pillows to ensure adequate ventilation and air flow while you sleep.
  • Ensure you get vaccinated annually against pneumonia.1

What should you not do when you have chronic bronchitis?

Once you have been diagnosed with chronic bronchitis,you would be doing your body a great deal of good if you :

  • Do not smoke
  • Minimise or totally abstain from drinking alcohol
  • Avoid air pollutants like pollens and dust,
  • Wash your hands regularly. This habit helps you prevent spreading organisms that can further worsen your infection.1

References

  1. Brunton, S; Colgan, R; Feeney, AS; Fendrick, AM; Quintiliani, R; Scott, G. Acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis: a primary care consensus guideline, 2004, 10, 689- 696

Abigail Akhigbemen

MSc, Pharmacology&Toxicology, University of Benin, Nigeria

"As a pharmacist in academics, I find fulfilment in teaching, researching and writing. I have a passion for and am inspired by the pursuit for solutions to pressing disease and factors that affects mental health and wellness.I have taught a wide range of health and drug-related topics to Medical, Pharmacy, Science laboratory, Physiotherapy and Medical laboratory science students for the past 7 years, designing and supervising their undergraduate thesis/project."

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