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Bronchitis

Causes And Treatment Of Bronchitis

Bronchitis occurs when the lining of your bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your lungs, become inflamed. This causes an increase in mucus in your throat, as well as a high rate of coughing and wheezing.

Types Of Bronchitis

There are two types of bronchitis you may suffer from depending on the severity of your illness. Acute bronchitis is the milder form of this sickness, and it is much more common. In this form, symptoms only last for a few weeks but will typically resolve itself on its own. Although the illness will usually go away within a week to 10 days, the cough may linger for a few weeks.

Chronic bronchitis is a more severe form of the illness which involves a constant irritation of the bronchial tubes. This is a long term illness that may be a sign of other lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Chronic bronchitis is defined as a cough that lasts for at least 3 months with recurring cycles for at least 2 consecutive years.

Risk Factors For Bronchitis

You may have an increased risk of experiencing bronchitis if you smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke, have asthma or allergies, have a weakened immune system or gastric reflux, are exposed to irritants at your job, or have a family history of lung diseases. The risk for chronic bronchitis also increases if you are a female smoker.

Causes Of Bronchitis

Viruses, such as the ones that cause the common cold or flu, are the main cause of acute bronchitis. Less frequently, bronchitis can also be caused by bacteria, which can be fought with antibiotics unlike viral bronchitis. As your body fights the germs, your bronchial tubes swell and produce mucus more intensely. This creates narrower openings which decreases the amount of air that can flow through your lungs, causing difficulty breathing.

Chronic bronchitis can be caused by breathing in air pollution or other irritants such as chemical fumes and dust, or from smoking or long term exposure to secondhand smoke.

Complications Of Bronchitis

One episode of bronchitis is usually not a reason for alarm, although in some cases, this illness can lead to pneumonia. However, consistent experiences with bronchitis may be a sign of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Symptoms Of Bronchitis

Symptoms for both acute and chronic bronchitis include a variety of breathing problems, such as chest congestion, which is where your chest feels clogged, and a cough that can bring up mucus either clear, white, yellow, or green in color. Other bronchitis symptoms include shortness of breath and a wheezing or whistling sound when you breathe. Symptoms that are specific to acute bronchitis include body aches and chills, fatigue, a low fever, sore throat, and a runny or stuffy nose.

Testing For Bronchitis

The most obvious way for your doctor to tell if you have bronchitis is a physical exam along with an observation of your symptoms, as they will be able to determine by the sound of your lungs if any wheezing is occurring. Depending on whether they believe you have acute or chronic bronchitis, they may also order other additional tests.

These tests can include checking your blood oxygen levels, a lung function test, chest X-ray, blood tests, and mucus tests, also known as sputum tests, which can rule out diseases caused by bacteria, such as whooping cough.

Treatment For Bronchitis

Typically, acute bronchitis will resolve itself within a few weeks, although if your illness is caused by a bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe you antibiotics to help treatment. If one of your symptoms is wheezing, or if you already suffer from asthma, you may be prescribed an inhaler to help alleviate these symptoms. Your cough may also prevent you from sleeping, in which case you should take cough medicine to suppress it.

Home remedies for acute bronchitis include staying hydrated, getting plenty of rest, taking over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen, using a humidifier or steam to loosen mucus, and taking over-the-counter cough medicines.

Treatment for chronic bronchitis includes medications such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and bronchodilators that will help open your airways, along with a mucus-clearing device that enables you to cough up fluids easily, oxygen therapy to facilitate better breathing, and pulmonary rehab.

Prevention Of Bronchitis

There are methods of prevention you can implement to lower your chances of experiencing either acute bronchitis or a flare-up of chronic bronchitis. These methods include avoiding cigarette smoke, vaccinating yourself against viral infections such as the flu each year, making sure your pertussis vaccine is up to date, washing your hands often, and wearing a mask when around things that may bother your lungs, such as dust, chemicals, and paint fumes.

How GPS Can Help

At Gwinnett Pulmonary and Sleep, we offer services to help determine if you are dealing with lung conditions such as bronchitis, and treatment to help if you are. These services include pulmonary function tests, such as spirometry, lung volume, and diffusion capacity; as well as pulmonary rehabilitation.

If you suspect that you may have bronchitis, it’s important to get tested as soon as possible. Learn more about our services here, or schedule an appointment to talk to our doctors.

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