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Chronic bronchitis: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About chronic bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is an obstructive lung disease characterised by expectorating cough for more than 3 months. It results from longstanding inflammation of the airways (bronchii) which causes it irreversible damage.

Chronic bronchitis: Incidence, age and sex

Chronic bronchitis is commonly encountered in the general population, especially in individuals living in industrial areas. Although it may afflict a person of any age group, it is mainly observed in young and middle aged adults.

Signs and symptoms of chronic bronchitis: Diagnosis

The clinical features of chronic bronchitis constitute persistent cough along with sputum which may be thick and white. This may be coupled with shortness of breath and chest tightness. These symptoms may deteriorate as time passes. Some individuals may also experience mild chest pain, temperature and exhaustion.

The respiratory physician on examination, may notice abnormal lung sounds resulting from passing of air through clogged airways. Other tests like lung function tests, chest x-ray and blood tests may be done to confirm the diagnosis.

Causes and prevention of chronic bronchitis

The chief factor contributing to chronic bronchitis is smoking wherein both passive and active smoking plays an important role in its causation. Other factors include dust, constant exposure to vehicular pollution and industrial fumes. Theses irritants inflame the airways causing increased mucus secretion which clogs the airways and result in impairment of air circulation.

Chronic bronchitis: Complications

Chronic bronchitis may get serious if the lungs get affected with bacterial infection. Moreover chronic bronchitis may occasionally result in heart failure which may be potentially fatal.

Chronic bronchitis: Treatment

Chronic bronchitis is a treatable disease but unfortunately it cannot be cured. Symptomatic relief may be provided by medications like bronchodilators which help to expand the constricted air passages. These bronchodilator drugs are inhaled preparations which need to be taken by inhalers. These drugs provide immediate relief from chest tightness and improved breathing. Other medications like theophylline may be prescribed if adequate benefit is observed with bronchodilators. In occasional cases, oral or inhaled steroids may be used as last resort in alleviating the symptoms. Antibiotics are advised when bacterial infections of lung occur. Measures like avoidance of sudden temperature changes and industrial pollution, smoking cessation and breathing exercises may help keep the disease under control.