What is Bronchitis

Bronchitis is a term that describes inflammation of the bronchial tubes (bronchi and the smaller branches termed bronchioles) that results in excessive secretions of mucus into the tubes, leading to tissue swelling that can narrow or close off bronchial tubes. Bronchial tubes extend from the trachea and terminate at the alveoli in the lungs; the bronchial system resembles an inverted tree and is sometimes termed the "bronchial tree." A few authors include the trachea and upper airway in the definition. There are two major types of bronchitis, acute and chronic.



What is acute bronchitis?
Acute bronchitis is usually bronchitis that is short-termed; the bronchitis lasts about two weeks and people recover with no permanent damage to the bronchial tree. Viruses such as influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and rhinoviruses cause the majority (about 90%) of cases of acute bronchitis, while the remainder are caused by bacteria (for example, Mycoplasma, Pneumococcus) or short-term exposure to chemical irritants (for example, tobacco smoke, gastric reflux contents, inhaled solvents).

Symptoms of acute bronchitis may include a cough, mild wheezing, fever, chills and malaise, and shortness of breath especially with exertion. Some people may cough up phlegm. Chronic bronchitis differs from acute bronchitis in several ways described below (pathology, progression of disease, major causes, treatments, and outcomes).

What is chronic bronchitis?
Chronic bronchitis is defined as a cough that occurs every day with sputum production that lasts for at least three months, two years in a row. This definition was developed to help select uniform patients for research purposes i.e. to study medication therapies for treatment of chronic bronchitis. Many of the bronchi develop chronic inflammation with swelling and excess mucus production in chronic bronchitis; the inflammation, swelling, and mucus frequently and significantly inhibit the airflow to and from the lung alveoli by narrowing and partially obstructing the bronchi and bronchioles. Many cells that line the airway lose the function of their cilia (hair-like appendages that are capable of beating rapidly), and eventually the ciliated cells are lost. Cilia perform the function of moving particles and fluid (usually mucus) over the epithelial surface in such structures as the trachea, bronchial tubes, and nasal cavities to keep these hollow structures clear of particles and fluids. Mucus-producing cells increase due to irritation. These cells produce a viscous fluid that facilitates cleansing of the airway. If the mucus becomes thick (less fluid or viscous), it may contribute to airway blockage.

With long standing inflammation, as can be seen in chronic bronchitis, scarring inside the bronchial tree may develop. These scarred areas do not clear particles and secretions very well, and can result in a fixed, nonreversible narrowing of the airway and the condition, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Chronic coughing develops as the body attempts to open and clear the bronchial airways of particles and mucus or as an overreaction to ongoing inflammation.

 

 


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