Generally characterized by coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, bronchitis is a well-known condition which affects the lungs. If the large or medium sized airways in the lungs (the bronchi) become inflamed, bronchitis occurs.
While most cases of bronchitis tend to be acute in nature, even a relatively short bout of the illness can be debilitating. While suffering from the condition, patients may struggle to breathe normally and this can prevent them from continuing with their day-to-day activities.
Acute bronchitis tends to last for an average of three weeks, although some patients may experience milder symptoms for up to six weeks. Although uncomfortable, people do not tend to suffer any ongoing complications as a result of the illness.
Chronic bronchitis, however, can be far more debilitating for sufferers. Often caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, chronic bronchitis causes the patient to suffer a productive cough for at least three months of the year. If this occurs for two or more years, chronic bronchitis can be diagnosed.
With decreased lung function associated with chronic bronchitis, patients may find it difficult to perform daily tasks and may require on-going assistance. While some people are admitted to hospital on a fairly regular basis due to the condition, others may benefit from oxygen being administered at home.
Until they've experienced the illness, many people aren't aware of how uncomfortable and distressing bronchitis can be. If patients struggle to breathe due to the illness, they may begin to panic or feel anxious. Unfortunately, this can make it harder for them catch their breath and it could increase, rather than resolve, symptoms.
As acute bronchitis is normally caused by viral infections, many patients contract the illness from other people. Close or direct contact with someone suffering from acute bronchitis could lead you to develop the illness as well.
In cases of chronic bronchitis, however, the pathology may be more complex. Generally caused by the inhalation of smoke, chronic bronchitis tends to affect smokers or ex-smokers. However, if you've been exposed to potentially hazardous substances, this could cause you to develop the condition as well.
In rare cases, both acute and chronic bronchitis can be caused by a bacterial infection. Although this isn't common, it is possible for patients to develop bronchitis as a result of harmful bacteria, rather than a virus.
If you're questioning, how I got bronchitis, it may depend on the type of condition you have. If it's acute, you've probably contracted it from someone else and it should resolve fairly quickly. If the condition is chronic, you may be genetically predisposed to the condition or lifestyle choices may have made you more prone to suffering some form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
As acute bronchitis is generally viral in nature, antibiotics won't be effective in treating the condition. Most people simply manage the symptoms with over-the-counter medications until the illness resolves itself.
Patients are normally advised to rest and take medications such as paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and these can help to reduce pain and inflammation. If breathing is severely impaired, patients may require more intensive treatment but this is fairly rare in cases of acute bronchitis.
Chronic bronchitis needs to be managed on an on-going basis. Avoiding smoke, dust and pollution can help to limit the symptoms of the illness and patients should attempt to avoid potential irritants wherever possible.
In some cases, a lung transport can be performed on patients with the condition but this isn't always a viable option. Instead, physicians may rely on oxygen supplementation, lung volume reduction surgery or corticosteroids to improve or manage the condition.
Most people will experience acute bronchitis in their lifetime. In fact, it's estimated that approximately 5% of people will suffer from acute bronchitis within a one-year period.
Although most people will make a full recovery from the illness, there may be additional complications if you suffer from other conditions. If you have asthma, for example, a case of acute bronchitis could worsen your breathing and you may require additional medical intervention.
In instances of chronic bronchitis, patients may need to change their lifestyles in order to limit the effects of the condition. At first, the shortness of breath associated with the condition may prevent you from taking part in high-intensity activities. Without effective symptom management, the symptom could progress and you may find it difficult to perform simple tasks, such as cleaning or cooking.
While chronic bronchitis can be debilitating, there has been plenty of research into the condition and most sufferers have access to a range of treatments. With appropriate treatment and lifestyle changes, bronchitis can often be managed effectively, ensuring that patients are able to continue leading a rewarding and satisfying life.