Bronchitis Vs Pneumonia

What's the difference - bronchitis vs pneumonia

Bronchitis vs pneumonia are common diseases of the lungs. Due to a number of genetic and environmental factors, they are seen among patients on a regular basis. Bronchitis and pneumonia are frequently confused for each other, but it's important to remember they are in fact different diseases.

Those key differences between bronchitis vs pneumonia are essential to fully understand how to treat them and what causes them.

What are bronchitis vs pneumonia?

Bronchitis is essentially inflammation of the bronchi within the lungs. The bronchi are basically large airways the lungs use in order to transport large quantities of oxygen. They are essential to basic living necessities and we can't survive without them. Airborne pathogens often seek out ways to attack our bronchi in order to help them spread their DNA. For example, if you were to catch a chest cold, the bacteria responsible for the chest cold may attempt to colonize your bronchi. Whenever you cough, you spread aerosols containing tiny amounts of the bacteria.

Pneumonia is a form of inflammation in the lungs affecting what are known as the alveoli. These are microscopic air sacs your body uses for storing oxygen. Pneumonia is often characterized by infectious disease, but it can also have a number of other causes such as smoking. People with pneumonia have a difficult time performing a number of important tasks and may need help doing important things such as lifting heavy objects or taking care of themselves.

What causes these diseases?

The best way to understand the differences between bronchitis and pneumonia are in the origins of the diseases. Bronchitis is often caused by smoking and other lifestyle factors, but pneumonia is generally caused by bacterial or viral infections. Bronchitis is most often found among smokers, but it has the potential to strike anyone who isn't careful or simply has some bad luck.

Pneumonia is highly associated with terminal illnesses such as cancer and HIV. Most people who have pneumonia are expected to quickly die if they are not able to find medical help.

The symptoms to look out for

Pneumonia is generally considered much more serious than bronchitis and the symptoms are capable of killing someone if left untreated. The symptoms of pneumonia are very similar to those of bronchitis, but they are typically much more painful.

Pneumonia patients frequently cough up blood while bronchitis patients do not. Other symptoms highly characteristic of pneumonia are blue fingernails and a "crushed" feeling when breathing.

However, there are people who experience symptoms that simply aren't out of the ordinary with pneumonia. These people often avoid treatment or don't see it as necessary. That attitude is profoundly dangerous and can lead to death if others do not convince them to find treatment.

Generally, while bronchitis is unpleasant, it has no history of killing the people it infects at anywhere near the rate of pneumonia.

Treatment of bronchitis vs pneumonia

The way doctors treat bronchitis and pneumonia differs greatly between the two diseases. Bronchitis is often treated by simply giving the patient something to relieve pain such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. If the cause of the bronchitis is in fact bacterial or viral, the doctor may give the patient drugs specifically intended to fight the infection.

On the other hand, pneumonia often demands hospitalization in order to treat the patient.

Prognosis for pneumonia vs bronchitis

Prevention is generally the preferred course of action for doctors dealing with pneumonia. When a patient reaches the point that they are experiencing the symptoms of pneumonia, reversing the course of things is difficult to do. If an infection is identified before things reach that point, treating the infection with antibiotics or antivirals is a step in the right direction. Otherwise, management is the course of action.

Bronchitis rarely requires the same level of treatment. Most often, the doctor can simply allow an infection to heal on its own or suggest the patient change their lifestyle. As long as bronchitis doesn't develop into pneumonia, most doctors will tell their patients they do not need to take any further course of action.

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Last Reviewed:
August 21, 2017
Last Updated:
October 18, 2017