What is the Connection Between Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis?

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  • Written By: Brandon May
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2019
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The connection between emphysema and chronic bronchitis is that they are both brought on by the effects of cigarette smoking and are both categorized under the label of COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Emphysema is believed to be an irreversible condition whose cause is smoking or secondhand smoke, whereas chronic bronchitis can be treated and its causes are similar but also more diverse. These two conditions can often occur at the same time in one individual, and at first it may seem difficult separate the two due to their similar effects on breathing. The differences can be seen through a series of medical exams which will aid the treatment of both conditions.

Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are often confused because they both cause a difficulty in breathing due to blocked airways in the lungs. Shared symptoms of the conditions are coughing and the struggle for air. These can sometimes be debilitating if handled incorrectly. The major cause of both conditions relate to cigarette smoking or secondhand smoke, making these conditions more problematic for developing bodies who are in a smoking environment. Although emphysema and chronic bronchitis do contain these similarities, they also have vast differences that help doctors distinguish between them.


Chronic bronchitis is a COPD condition which is diagnosed after three consecutive months of coughing and uncontrolled breathing for a period of two years. It is often the result of cigarette smoking, yet it can also be caused by air pollution or secondhand smoke. Emphysema, on the other hand, is directly linked to cigarette smoke and is an irreversible condition which involves the destruction of airways in the lungs. Although this condition cannot be cured, it can be controlled through a variety of medical methods.

Treating both emphysema and chronic bronchitis can become difficult at times, especially if both cases are severe and have remained uncontrolled for a long period. Both treatments may involve the use of bronchodialaters or antibiotic treatment, yet the avoidance of cigarettes and quitting smoking seem to be the biggest tools for both treatment and prevention. Chronic bronchitis suffers may see more hope than those who suffer from emphysema, as emphysema is irreversible and can only be maintained through treatment. Many times, those who suffer from emphysema due to years of cigarette smoking can die from respiratory failure after suffering from the lengthy and debilitating disease.


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