What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis refers to the inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes of the individual. It occurs when the bronchioles (air-carrying tubes in the lungs) are inflamed and make too much mucus. This condition can be divided into two sub-parts which are as follows:

  1. Acute Bronchitis -

    Acute bronchitis is a condition that is quite common and is experienced by a large number of individuals throughout their lives. This type of bronchitis can also be referred to as a chest cold and is usually caused by various respiratory viruses.

  2. Chronic Bronchitis -

    Chronic bronchitis is more commonly known as a productive cough which lasts for more than three months at a time and occurs multiple times throughout the year for at least two consecutive years. This condition is characterized by the duration of its existence and the fact that it can reoccur often.

What Are The Symptoms Of Acute Bronchitis?

It is generally difficult for an individual to tell the difference between acute bronchitis and other conditions which affect the lungs. This is because the symptoms of bronchitis tend to match the symptoms of other lung conditions. However, the main symptoms of acute bronchitis are as follows:

  1. He or she will have a sore throat especially when they cough
  2. They will also have a hacking cough which will last for at least 5 days. The cough will be a productive cough and it will produce clear, white, yellow or green phlegm.
  3. There will be a whistling sound when the individual is breathing
  4. He or she will have a sore throat especially when they cough

What Are The Symptoms of Chronic Bronchitis?

The symptoms of chronic bronchitis are similar to the symptoms of acute bronchitis. The major difference here is that the symptoms for chronic bronchitis will last for a longer period of time as compared to the symptoms for acute bronchitis. The other symptoms of chronic bronchitis are as follows:

  1. The individual will experience a stubborn cough. The cough must last for at least 3 months of the year for two years in a row.
  2. Cough associated with excess mucus production.
  3. In addition to the coughing fits, the individual will also experience a wheezing fit
  4. The individual will also experience quite a bit of chest discomfort in addition to his other symptoms

What Are The Major Causes Of Bronchitis?

  1. A Viral Infection -

    A viral infection (or various viruses to put it simply) is the major cause of bronchitis. There are quite a number of viruses that could lead to different respiratory infections such as the common cold, the sinusitis or the flu.

  2. Bacteria -

    It is not unheard of for acute bronchitis to be caused due to the inhalation of bacteria or other harmful substances which are present in the air. Few of these harmful substances include fine dust particles that have heavy metals or sulphur mixed in it.

  3. Fungal Infections -

    While extremely rare, it is possible for acute bronchitis to be caused due to various fungal infections.

When the individual inhales, the various viruses and bacteria present in the environment enter the bronchi which are located in the lungs of the individual. Once settled in the mucous membranes, the viruses and bacteria start to increase their number and multiply. In order to fight off these foreign substances, the body of the individual reacts by causing inflammation. In order to do this, the amount of blood being supplied to the mucous membrane is increased and the membranes of the individual get swollen. Once this happens, the immune system cells enter the inflamed area to fight the bacteria and virus present in the membrane. Additionally, the membranes produce more liquid to help flush out the bacteria, virus and dead cells. This is pushed out of the body through the phlegm that comes out when the individual coughs.

That being said, when the individual coughs, he or she releases droplets into the air. If these droplets are inhaled by unsuspecting individuals, it is possible that they will also fall sick.

When Should The Individual Visit The Doctor?

The individual should visit the doctor immediately if he or she experiences any of the following symptoms:

  1. If the individual has heart problems or any other severe medical condition in addition to experiencing the symptoms of acute or chronic bronchitis
  2. If the cough that the individual experiences is so severe that it disrupts their sleep as well as their daily activities
  3. If the individual coughs up blood in addition to phlegm (mucus)
  4. If the individual experiences a coughing fit which lasts longer than a week
  5. If the phlegm becomes thicker and darker, and if there is an increase in the volume of the phlegm.
  6. The individual's coughing fit will sound like a bark which will make it difficult for the individual to talk
  7. If the individual experiences unexplainable weight loss
  8. If the individual experiences a fever that is more than 100 degrees, it is important for him or her to see the doctor right away.
How Does A Doctor Diagnose An Individual's Bronchitis?

There are three to five questions that are usually asked at the beginning so that the doctor can determine whether the individual does indeed have bronchitis or if the condition that the individual has is a different one. The questions that will be asked are as follows:

  1. The duration of the cough
  2. Is the cough a wet or dry cough and in the case of a wet cough, what is the colour of the phlegm?
  3. Does the individual have any other symptoms besides the coughing fit?
  4. Does the individual get a fever often or feel dizzy?
  5. Does the individual have any other major chronic diseases?

After noting down the answers to these questions, the doctor will then carry out a physical examination. During this physical examination, the doctor will check the throat, sinuses and lymph nodes of the individual. Using a stethoscope, the doctor will ask the individual to inhale and exhale deeply to check whether the lungs and heart of the individual are up to the mark. In certain cases, the doctor may also check the individual's temperature as well as his or her pulse to make sure that everything is in order.

If the results of the physical examination along with the answers to the previously asked questions match with the symptoms of acute or chronic bronchitis, the doctor will diagnose the individual with bronchitis.

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