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What Is Bronchial Inflammation?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Images By: Hartphotography, Dmitrimaruta, Petert2, Serhiy Kobyakov, n/a, Creo77, 7Activestudio
  • Last Modified Date: 03 September 2016
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Bronchial inflammation is a response in the airways that occurs when the body reacts to injury or illness. A cascading series of complex biological processes occur as the body identifies a problem or thinks it sees one and reacts to address the issue. The reaction floods the airways with chemical signals and white blood cells that cause swelling, heat, and irritation. As the inflammation continues, the mucous membranes start producing high volumes of mucus, forcing the patient to cough to eliminate it.

There are a number of reasons why people can develop bronchial inflammation, which comes in acute and chronic forms. When the patient has acute bronchitis, as bronchial inflammation is also known, it onsets very quickly and is often associated with an infection or environmental exposure to chemicals, particulates, and other materials that irritate the airways. As the body tries to fight, the airways can swell, making the patient uncomfortable. Shortness of breath and wheezing along with coughing are common symptoms because the patient can’t breathe normally.

Chronic cases of bronchial inflammation are associated with underlying airway disease like asthma or emphysema. In this case, the airways remain in a state of persistent low-level inflammation that may periodically flare up. Asthma patients, for example, can experience an attack when exposed to an allergen that enters the airway and triggers an immune reaction. Autoimmune disorders can also cause bronchial inflammation because the body starts attacking itself after mistakenly identifying its own cells as dangerous.

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Treatment for this condition can depend on the cause and the severity of the response. In an acute case, someone may have such difficulty breathing that intubation is recommended to secure the airway and keep the patient oxygenated. Medications like steroids can be administered to reduce the inflammation and bring it under control. In addition, patients could take expectorants to clear mucus or antibiotics to eliminate infectious organisms that are causing irritation in the bronchial passages.

People with chronic conditions require more careful management. Preventative medications can limit the incidence of inflammation and make it less severe when it does occur, and may be combined with tools like rescue inhalers for acute attacks. Addressing the underlying cause can keep the patient stable, but it may not be possible to completely eliminate the bronchial inflammation. Patients may be advised to avoid inflammatory triggers like smoke, pollen, and dust, because their airways are less capable of handling them without flaring up.

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