Chronic bronchitis is defined as a long-term inflammation or swelling of the bronchi. This can result in heightened production of mucus and may be accompanied by other side effects. To be classified as chronic bronchitis, a harsh cough and expectoration (coughing up of mucus) must occur on most days, for no less than three months of the year, for two or more years in a row. This does not include other conditions such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, or other lung conditions that may result in the same symptoms.
Identifying the Symptoms of Chronic Bronchitis
Although chronic bronchitis may affect each person differently, there are tell-tale signs of chronic bronchitis that may help you identify the problem. This include:
- Cough. This cough may be subtle or harsh, but with all cases of bronchitis, there is some coughing present.
- Expectoration. Expectoration is the coughing up or spitting out of mucus due to over production, caused by bronchitis.
If chronic bronchitis is not treated properly it may cause a number of different conditions, which is why it is so important to seek treatment for chronic bronchitis if you believe you may be suffering from it. These include difficulty breathing, frequent and caustic respiratory infections, narrowing of the bronchi, and even disability. There may be other warning signs and symptoms that you are suffering from chronic bronchitis as well. These include swelling of the feet, heart palpitation, and failure, and your lips and skin may appear a bluish tint. Many of these symptoms are common in other lung ailments, and it is important that you consult your physician for a proper diagnosis.
What Causes Chronic Bronchitis?
Unlike acute bronchitis, where virus or bacteria is most likely the cause, there is no organism that is recognized as the cause of chronic bronchitis. The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking. Most long-term smokers experience the symptoms of chronic bronchitis at one time or another throughout their lives. Other causes of chronic bronchitis may be bacterial or viral infections, pollution of the environment, or the breathing of certain chemicals. Chronic bronchitis has also been associated with various pulmonary diseases including emphysema, asthma, fibrosis, and tuberculosis.
How is Chronic Bronchitis Diagnosed?
Your physician may ask you to provide your medical history and conduct a physical examination. If more tests need to be run, some of these may include:
- Pulmonary Function Tests – These tests measure the lungs’ ability to trade oxygen and carbon dioxide. These tests will probably be run using special equipment, and consist of you breathing into a tube that computes the measurements.
- Pulse Oximetry – Measures the amount of oxygen present in the blood.
- Arterial Blood Gas (ABG) – An ABG is a blood test that measures the acidity (pH) of the blood and also measures the lungs’ ability to provide your blood with oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from it.
- Other tests – May include X-Ray’s, CT scans or other internal imaging tests.
If you have the symptoms described in this article, you are advised to consult your personal physician as soon as possible to have your condition properly diagnosed and treated.