Chronic bronchitis is defined as excessive mucus secretion in the bronchi and a chronic or recurrent mucus–producing cough that lasts three or more months and recurs year after year. In diagnosing chronic bronchitis, it is important to rule out heart disease, lung infections, cancer and other disorders that may produce bronchitis–like symptoms. Chronic bronchitis may result from a series of attacks of acute bronchitis, or it may evolve gradually because of heavy smoking or the inhalation of air contaminated with other pollutants in the environment.
- Acute Bronchitis
When the so–called smoker’s cough is constant rather than occasional, the likelihood exists that the mucus–producing layer of the bronchial lining has thickened, narrowing the airways to the point where breathing becomes increasingly difficult. With the immobilization of the cilia that sweep the air clean of foreign irritants, the bronchial passages become more vulnerable to further infection and the spread of tissue damage.
Symptoms of Chronic Bronchitis
The major symptom is a cough which is usually worse in the mornings when the bronchi have not drained overnight. The patient produces clear, mucous sputum. The sputum becomes thicker and yellow if any additional infection occurs.
Asthma, obesity and smoking all complicate and worsen chronic bronchitis. The bronchitis usually improve if these conditions are treated.
Treatment of Chronic Bronchitis
A close watch is kept on any colds or respiratory infections. The physician usually prescribes antibiotics at the first sign of a change in the sputum to prevent the possibility of secondary bacterial infection and further damage to the bronchi and lungs. Breathing exercises, and sometimes postural drainage can help keep the bronchi clear. The physician will also recommend cessation of smoking and if advisable, a change in working conditions as well.