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What are the Symptoms of Bronchitis?

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  • Written By: Emma Lloyd
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2016
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Bronchitis is a lower respiratory tract disease in which the mucus membranes of the bronchi — tiny airways which link the trachea and lungs — become inflamed due to infection or injury. There are two types of bronchitis, known as acute and chronic bronchitis, each with a specific pattern of causes and symptoms. Common signs and symptoms of both types of bronchitis include coughing and difficulty breathing; other symptoms of bronchitis differ depending upon whether the condition is acute or chronic.

Bronchitis is often caused by bacterial or viral infection, and such cases are more common during the winter months. Bacteria which cause bronchitis include Mycoplasma pneumoniae, and viruses such as influenza A and B can also cause bronchitis. When bacteria and viruses cause bronchitis, the condition often develops alongside an upper respiratory tract infection such as a cold or influenza.

In most cases, acute bronchitis is caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Symptoms of acute bronchitis include wet coughing which produces mucus, as well as a runny nose and sore throat, congested nasal passages, and fever. These symptoms of bronchitis develop as a result of the body’s efforts to eliminate the invading pathogen and eliminate the mucus that builds up in the lungs. Decongestants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and expectorants are commonly used to treat acute symptoms of bronchitis.

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Not all cases of bronchitis are caused by infectious organisms. Some cases can be caused by inhalation of dust, fumes, and chemicals which irritate the respiratory tract and lead to inflammation. Inhalation of irritants such as chemicals and tobacco smoke are more likely to cause chronic rather than acute bronchitis.

Symptoms of chronic bronchitis differ significantly from those of acute bronchitis. In chronic disease, the symptoms of bronchitis include coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing, without the nasal congestion and fever caused by the acute form. These symptoms are exacerbated on exertion. Many people with chronic bronchitis find their cough is worse in the morning, with mucus that appears green or yellow in color. If enough damage is done to the lungs, blood may be coughed up along with the mucus.

Most symptoms of chronic bronchitis are the result of damage to delicate lung tissue. As the bronchi suffer repeated bouts of damage, they become chronically inflamed and swollen, causing cells to produce more mucus. As a result of increased mucus production and swelling, the airways become blocked, making breathing more difficult. These symptoms of bronchitis can be treated with corticosteroids and bronchodilators, which reduce inflammation and widen the bronchi, making breathing easier.

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pastanaga
Post 4

@Iluviaporos - I've had the symptoms of acute bronchitis and they were definitely not pleasant, but still it was something that you can endure. I imagine that researchers are more interested in trying to find a cure for lung cancer and more fatal respiratory diseases and in managing the symptoms of chronic bronchitis rather than looking for a cure.

lluviaporos
Post 3

@irontoenail - I've had friends with the same problem from various sources. One of them has lung problems because of inhaling chemicals at his job for so long and he gets acute bronchitis a couple of times a year.

I wonder if this kind of damage will one day be able to be fixed with stem cell treatments or by growing lung tissue in a lab and then implanting it into patients who need it.

When you consider how many people live in parts of the world where they simply can't escape crippling air pollution, the demand for this kind of treatment is going to grow over time, so hopefully someone will try to develop a better method of combating it.

irontoenail
Post 2

My mother gets chronic bronchitis, where she will sometimes cough so hard at night that she ends up vomiting. According to the doctors, the damage to her lungs was caused by secondhand smoke she was exposed to when she worked in a bar for around a decade.

I'm so glad that most places have banned smoking indoors but it really makes me sad that she still has to live with the consequences of other people's habits.

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