Bronchitis is a medical condition which affects the respiratory system and manifests as the inflammation of the mucous membranes of the bronchi. Bronchi are the delicate passages of airway in the respiratory tract, small tubes that carry air from the trachea to the lungs. Under some conditions, the linings of these bronchial tubes can become inflamed, causing a pathologic condition.
Bronchitis can be chronic or acute. Acute bronchitis normally develops in conjunction with some other respiratory infection. It usually resolves after a couple of days, but some patients may have symptoms such as troubles breathing and coughing for a couple of weeks. Acute bronchitis is usually caused by various viruses that infect the epithelium of the bronchi. Viruses such as rhinoviruses, adenoviruses, and influenza, are responsible for about 90% of all cases of acute bronchitis. Bacteria such as Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Chlamydia pneumoniae, and Bordetella pertussis, account for about 10% of cases. Cough is the most common symptom of acute bronchitis, and it occurs in an attempt to expel the excess mucus from the lungs. Other symptoms may include sore throat, runny nose, low grade fever, nasal congestion and the production of sputum.
Chronic bronchitis is a serious condition, characterized by constant inflammation of the bronchial tubes. This disease usually occurs in smokers. This condition is also known as the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and it is diagnosed based on the productive cough that lasts for at least 3 months or more per year for at least 2 years. Air pollution, constant exposure to cold air, or occupational exposure to irritants, can also cause chronic bronchitis. Other symptoms of chronic bronchitis include wheezing, shortness of breath, and the yellowish or green sputum, sometimes streaked with blood. Symptoms tend to be worse in the morning and slightly alleviate during the day.
Treatment for bronchitis
Treatment for bronchitis is primarily focused on relieving the symptoms and making the breathing easier. In many cases, patients will just need to take a good rest, drink a lot of fluids and use simple over the counter cough suppressants and acetaminophen or aspirin. Breathing in a warm and moist air can help with the breathing problems.
In most of the cases, antibiotics will not be effective, as the bronchitis usually results from viral infection. Antibiotics are prescribed only in a small portion of all cases, when the doctor suspects there is a bacterial infection. Various cough medications will help to remove mucus from the lungs and clean the lungs from irritants in the air passages.