Figure A shows the location of the lungs and bronchial tubes. Figure B is an enlarged view of a normal bronchial tube. Figure C is an enlarged view of a bronchial tube with bronchitis.
|Classification and external resources|
|Specialty||Infectious disease, pulmonology|
|ICD-9-CM||466, 491, 490|
Bronchitis is inflammation of the bronchi (large and medium-sized airways) in the lungs. Symptoms include coughing up mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest discomfort. Bronchitis is divided into two types: acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis is also known as a chest cold.
Acute bronchitis usually has a cough that lasts around three weeks. In more than 90% of cases the cause is a viral infection. These viruses may be spread through the air when people cough or by direct contact. Risk factors include exposure to tobacco smoke, dust, and other air pollution. A small number of cases are due to high levels of air pollution or bacteria such as Mycoplasma pneumoniae or Bordetella pertussis. Treatment of acute bronchitis typically involves rest, paracetamol (acetaminophen), and NSAIDs to help with the fever.
Chronic bronchitis is defined as a productive cough that lasts for three months or more per year for at least two years. Most people with chronic bronchitis have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Tobacco smoking is the most common cause, with a number of other factors such as air pollution and genetics playing a smaller role. Treatments include quitting smoking, vaccinations, rehabilitation, and often inhaled bronchodilators and steroids. Some people may benefit from long-term oxygen therapy or lung transplantation.
Acute bronchitis is one of the most common diseases. About 5% of adults are affected and about 6% of children have at least one episode a year. In 2010, COPD affects 329 million people or nearly 5% of the global population. In 2013, it resulted in 2.9 million deaths, up from 2.4 million deaths in 1990.
Acute bronchitis, also known as a chest cold, is short term inflammation of the bronchi of the lungs. The most common symptom is a cough. Other symptoms include coughing up mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath, fever, and chest discomfort. The infection may last from a few to ten days. The cough may persist for several weeks afterwards with the total duration of symptoms usually around three weeks. Some have symptoms for up to six weeks.
In more than 90% of cases the cause is a viral infection. These viruses may be spread through the air when people cough or by direct contact. Risk factors include exposure to tobacco smoke, dust, and other air pollution. A small number of cases are due to high levels of air pollution or bacteria such as Mycoplasma pneumoniae or Bordetella pertussis. Diagnosis is typically based on a person's signs and symptoms. The color of the sputum does not indicate if the infection is viral or bacterial. Determining the underlying organism is typically not needed. Other causes of similar symptoms include asthma, pneumonia, bronchiolitis, bronchiectasis, and COPD. A chest X-ray may be useful to detect pneumonia.
Prevention is by not smoking and avoiding other lung irritants. Frequent hand washing may also be protective. Treatment of acute bronchitis typically involves rest, paracetamol (acetaminophen), and NSAIDs to help with the fever. Cough medicine has little support for its use and is not recommended in children less than six years of age. There is tentative evidence that salbutamol may be useful in those with wheezing; however, it may result in nervousness. Antibiotics should generally not be used. An exception is when acute bronchitis is due to pertussis. Tentative evidence supports honey and pelargonium to help with symptoms.
Acute bronchitis is one of the most common diseases. About 5% of adults are affected and about 6% of children have at least one episode a year. It occurs more often in the winter. More than 10 million people in the United States visit a doctor each year for this condition with about 70% receiving antibiotics which are mostly not needed. There are efforts to decrease the use of antibiotics in acute bronchitis.
Chronic bronchitis is defined as a productive cough that lasts for three months or more per year for at least two years. Most people with chronic bronchitis have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Protracted bacterial bronchitis is defined as a chronic productive cough with a positive bronchoalveolar lavage that resolves with antibiotics. Symptoms of chronic bronchitis may include wheezing and shortness of breath, especially upon exertion and low oxygen saturations. The cough is often worse soon after awakening and the sputum produced may have a yellow or green color and may be streaked with specks of blood.
Most cases of chronic bronchitis are caused by smoking cigarettes or other forms of tobacco. Additionally, chronic inhalation of air pollution or irritating fumes or dust from hazardous exposures in occupations such as coal mining, grain handling, textile manufacturing, livestock farming, and metal moulding may also be a risk factor for the development of chronic bronchitis. Protracted bacterial bronchitis is usually caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, Non-typable Haemophilus influenzae, or Moraxella catarrhalis.
Individuals with an obstructive pulmonary disorder such as bronchitis may present with a decreased FEV1 and FEV1/FVC ratio on pulmonary function tests. Unlike other common obstructive disorders such as asthma or emphysema, bronchitis rarely causes a high residual volume (the volume of air remaining in the lungs after a maximal exhalation effort).
Evidence suggests that the decline in lung function observed in chronic bronchitis may be slowed with smoking cessation. Chronic bronchitis is treated symptomatically and may be treated in a nonpharmacologic manner or with pharmacologic therapeutic agents. Typical nonpharmacologic approaches to the management of COPD including bronchitis may include: pulmonary rehabilitation, lung volume reduction surgery, and lung transplantation. Inflammation and edema of the respiratory epithelium may be reduced with inhaled corticosteroids. Wheezing and shortness of breath can be treated by reducing bronchospasm (reversible narrowing of smaller bronchi due to constriction of the smooth muscle) with bronchodilators such as inhaled long acting β2-adrenergic receptor agonists (e.g., salmeterol) and inhaled anticholinergics such as ipratropium bromide or tiotropium bromide. Mucolytics may have a small therapeutic effect on acute exacerbations of chronic bronchitis. Supplemental oxygen is used to treat hypoxemia (too little oxygen in the blood) and has been shown to reduce mortality in chronic bronchitis patients. Oxygen supplementation can result in decreased respiratory drive, leading to increased blood levels of carbon dioxide (hypercapnea) and subsequent respiratory acidosis.
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- NIH entry on Bronchitis
- MedlinePlus entries on Acute bronchitis and Chronic bronchitis
- Mayo Clinic factsheet on bronchitis