Chronic bronchitis refers to bronchitis, an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which consists of daily coughing with the production of mucus that continues for at least three months and repeats the following year. Although bronchitis can usually be treated easily with rest, over-the-counter medications, drinking extra fluids and breathing warm, moist air, the chronic variety may lead to more serious conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), also called advanced chronic bronchitis. Other complications caused by chronic bronchitis include dyspnea, respiratory failure, pneumonia, emphysema and, in the most severe cases, death. In order to avoid more serious conditions, people diagnosed with chronic bronchitis must undergo chronic bronchitis treatment under the supervision of their physician.
Most people diagnosed with chronic bronchitis are cigarette smokers. A patient's first step in the chronic bronchitis treatment is smoking cessation and the avoidance of secondhand smoke. About 50 percent of smokers diagnosed with chronic bronchitis will quit coughing within one month after quitting and 80 percent will quit within two months of quitting. The addictive quality of nicotine causes smokers considerable difficulty in quitting and many times patients ignore this treatment to their own detriment.
In the event that someone diagnosed with chronic bronchitis does not smoke, or quits smoking cigarettes, medical chronic bronchitis treatment options consist of two types of medications. Bronchodilators, the first type of bronchitis medication, work by relaxing the muscles that surround the bronchi, which allows the expansion of the inner airways. Common bronchodilators are albuterol, metaproterenol, formoterol and salmeterol.
Steroids are the other type of medication used for chronic bronchitis treatment. Steroids aid in the reduction of bronchial inflammation, which reduces swelling and mucus production. The lack of swelling and mucus promotes better airflow by reducing obstructions in the airway. Prednisone is the most common steroid used to treat bronchitis, but methylprednisolone may also be used.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is another type of treatment that may be used to treat bronchitis. Pulmonary rehabilitation consists of educating the patient about the effect of smoking combined with exercises and breathing techniques that may assist in reducing symptoms. Additionally, patients are taught about nutrition. Certain foods and beverages aid in reducing the viscosity of the mucus, so it is easier expelled from the body. In severe cases of chronic bronchitis or COPD, an individual may need supplemental oxygen treatment because their airways are extremely obstructed.