What Is Bronchitis? What Causes Bronchitis?

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What Is Bronchitis? What Causes Bronchitis?

Postby Wilberforce » Sun Nov 10, 2013 8:03 pm

What Is Bronchitis? What Causes Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is inflammation or swelling of the bronchial tubes (bronchi), the air passages between the nose and the lungs. More specifically, bronchitis is when the lining of the bronchial tubes becomes inflamed or infected.

People with bronchitis breathe less air and oxygen into their lungs; they also have heavy mucus or phlegm forming in the airways. Bronchitis may be acute or chronic (long-term):

Acute bronchitis is a shorter illness that commonly follows a cold or viral infection, such as the flu. It generally consists of a cough with green sputum, chest discomfort or soreness, fever, and sometimes shortness of breath. Acute bronchitis usually lasts a few days or weeks.

Chronic bronchitis is characterized by a persistent, mucus-producing cough on most days of the month, three months of a year for two successive years in absence of a secondary cause of the cough. People with chronic bronchitis have varying degrees of breathing difficulties, and symptoms may get better and worsen during different parts of the year.

What causes bronchitis?
Bronchitis is caused by viruses, bacteria, and other particles that irritate the bronchial tubes.

Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a viral infection in the bronchi - often the same viruses that causes cold and flu. Bronchitis is actually part of the immune response to fighting against the infection, since additional swelling occurs in the bronchial tubes as the immune system's actions generate mucus. In addition to viruses, bacteria, exposure to tobacco smoke, exposure to pollutants or solvents, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also cause acute bronchitis.

Chronic bronchitis is most commonly caused by cigarette smoking. However, it can also be the result of continuous attacks of acute bronchitis. Air pollution, dust, toxic gases, and other industrial fumes are known to be responsible for the condition.
Who gets bronchitis?
People at increased risk of getting bronchitis and increased risk of having more severe symptoms include:

Smokers - A study carried out by researchers at the COPD Program at Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in Albuquerque found that smoking was associated with the overproduction of mucus that causes bronchitis. They reported their findings in the Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
People who are exposed to a lot of secondhand smoke
People with weakened immune systems
The elderly and infants
People with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Those who are exposed to irritants at work, such as chemical fumes from ammonia, strong acids, chlorine, hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide or bromine
People who are exposed to air pollution - researchers at UC Davis discovered a close association between exposure to components of air pollution and acute bronchitis in preschool-aged kids. The air particulates, known as PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) originate from vehicle exhaust, wood-burning stoves, tobacco smoke,coal burning, and grilling food. Another study found that more people die in the United Kingdom from traffic pollution than from automobile accidents.

What are the symptoms of bronchitis?
Signs and symptoms for both acute and chronic bronchitis include:

Inflammation or swelling of the bronchi
Production of clear, white, yellow, grey, or green mucus (sputum)
Shortness of breath
Fever and chills
Chest pain or discomfort
Blocked or runny nose

Acute bronchitis usually results in a nagging cough that lingers for several weeks even after the bronchitis resolves. Chronic bronchitis's long-term inflammation leads to scarring of the bronchial tubes and airways, which leads to production of excessive mucus. Additional symptoms of chronic bronchitis include frequent respiratory infections and a cough that is worse in the mornings and in damp weather.
How is bronchitis diagnosed?
In addition to an examination of family and personal medical histories, there are several tests that are used to diagnose bronchitis. If a doctor hears wheezing or abnormal sounds when listening to your lungs with a stethoscope, he or she will often order chest X-rays. A pulmonary lung function test using a device called a spirometer may be employed to check for asthma or emphysema. Physicians will also order an analysis of sputum (material coughed up from lungs) called a sputum culture, which can reveal the type of bacteria, if any, that is present in your body. Additional tests include blood tests and oxygen saturation measurements.
Video: What is Chronic Bronchitis?
How is bronchitis treated?
People suffering from bronchitis are usually instructed to rest, drink fluids, breath warm and moist air, and take over-the-counter cough suppressants and pain relievers in order to manage symptoms and ease breathing. Many cases of acute bronchitis actually may go away without any specific treatment, but there is no cure for chronic bronchitis.

To keep bronchitis symptoms under control and relieve symptoms, doctors may prescribe:

Antibiotics - these are effective for bacterial infections, but not for viral infections. They may also prevent secondary infections.

Cough medicine - one must be careful not to completely suppress the cough, for it is an important way to bring up mucus and remove irritants from the lungs.

Bronchodilators - these open the bronchial tubes and clear out mucus.

Mucolytics - these thin or loosen mucus in the airways, making it easier to cough up sputum.

Anti-inflammatory medicines and glucocorticoid steroids - these are for more persistent symptoms.

Pulmonary rehabilitation program - this includes work with a respiratory therapist to help breathing.

Additional behavioral remedies include:

Avoiding tobacco smoke and quitting smoking
Using a humidifier
Cold-air face masks (if cold air aggravates cough)
Pursed-lip breathing (to slow breathing)

How can bronchitis be prevented?
Bronchitis is a somewhat preventable disease. Prevention methods include:

Avoiding tobacco smoke and exposure to second hand smoke
Quitting smoking
Avoiding people who are sick with colds or the flu
Getting a yearly flu vaccine
Getting a pneumonia vaccine (especially for those over 60 years of age)
Washing hands regularly
Avoiding cold, damp locations or areas with a lot of air pollution
Wearing a mask around people who are coughing and sneezing

Written by Peter Crosta M.A.

Original article date: 30th May 2004. Article updated: 6th November 2012

• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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