Although asthma and bronchitis are two very different conditions, they are often confused, because they have fairly similar symptoms and they both involve the respiratory tract, precisely the airways or bronchi, which become inflamed.
However, it is important to distinguish the two because proper and timely diagnose and treatment can prevent rather serious complications.
Bronchitis is often a consequence of an underlying infection of the respiratory tract. It can be acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis is treatable with medications while chronic bronchitis is a permanent condition.
Asthma, on the other hand, is not so clear when it comes to its causes. Not all medical experts agree on what exactly is causing it, but most of them agree that environmental factors like pollution, exposure to harmful agents, smoking, whether firsthand or secondhand, as well as hereditary factors, all increase the risk of this condition. Unfortunately, asthma is not curable, but it is treatable. There are ways to alleviate its symptoms, but the condition itself is permanent.
Symptoms of asthma and bronchitis may seem similar, but their cause is different. Bronchitis usually includes symptoms like cough, chest pain, mucus production and wheezing.
Asthma patients may display some of the same symptoms, like coughing and wheezing, but they also suffer from chest tightness and pressure, problems sleeping and dyspnea, which means difficulty breathing.
Some factors pose a risk for both asthma and bronchitis. This includes smoking, whether it is frequent or occasional. Even people exposed to second hand smoke are at risk of these illnesses. People who have a weak immune system are at risk too.
For asthma, the chances of suffering from asthma are often related to the family history. If a family member, especially mother or father, have asthma, there is a chance that the child will have it too.
Obesity also increases the risk of asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory disorders. It can also lead to other conditions and diseases that may include heart and brain.
The most common complication of bronchitis is chronic bronchitis. Bronchitis also leads to asthma and other respiratory problems.
As for the asthma, if it gets worse, it can lead to more severe asthma attacks, where airways become mostly or completely blocked. This disables breathing, which is very dangerous. Frequent asthma attacks can cause permanent damage to the airways.
Bronchitis has far more treatment options than asthma, which is incurable, as it is mentioned above. Bronchitis is treated with antibiotics, and its symptoms are alleviated with cough syrup, lozenges, inhalers and humidifiers.
There is no cure for asthma; there are only ways to relieve asthma attacks. People who are prone to severe attacks should always carry inhalers, which contain drugs that stop the attacks and unblock the airways.