The official blog of the Lung Institute.
When you are living with a chronic lung disease such as chronic bronchitis, it can be challenging to feel like you have all the information you need. With so many chronic bronchitis facts to know, we’ve broken them down to what’s most important for you.
What is chronic bronchitis?
Chronic bronchitis, along with emphysema, is classified as one of the major conditions contributing to chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD). One important chronic bronchitis fact is understanding what occurs in the lungs of someone with chronic bronchitis. In chronic bronchitis, the air passages of the lungs become inflamed, which typically occurs in the trachea (or windpipe) and in the large and small bronchi (or tree-like air passages). Resulting from irritation or infection, bronchitis can either be short-lived (acute) or re-occuring (chronic).
When irritation or infection is present in the lungs, the thin mucous linings meant to protect the lungs become inflamed. The airway linings leak fluids in response to the inflammation, which can cause coughing. Coughing is the body’s natural reflex to clear the air passageways, but people with either form of bronchitis have a wet, painful cough.
While the acute or short-lived form of bronchitis often improves within a few days without lasting effects, chronic bronchitis is a more serious condition that develops over time and is long-lasting. After constant inflammation in the lining of the bronchial tubes, excessive amounts of sticky mucus build-up in the airways, restricting the amount of airflow going into and out of the lungs. Over time, the blockage in airflow worsens, making breathing more difficult.
Eventually, many people with chronic bronchitis develop emphysema. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are categorized within COPD.
What are the symptoms of chronic bronchitis?
Many people looking for chronic bronchitis facts want to know about the symptoms of chronic bronchitis. A common symptom is a persistent, heavy cough that brings up mucus. Typically, the mucus is yellow, green or white in color. Over time, the amount of mucus increases and continues to restrict airflow often causing wheezing and shortness of breath.
Many people with chronic bronchitis experience chest tightness and discomfort as well as wheezing, which is an abnormal whistling noise while breathing out.
Symptoms of chronic bronchitis include:
- Chest discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Increased mucus production
- Persistent, heavy cough that expels mucus
What causes chronic bronchitis?
Part of knowing the chronic bronchitis facts is understanding the causes. When the lining of the bronchial tubes is repeatedly irritated and inflamed, chronic bronchitis can occur. Because the continuous inflammation and swelling can cause damage to the airways as well as the build-up of sticky mucus, moving air through the lungs becomes difficult.
The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is cigarette smoking. In fact, over 90 percent of people with chronic bronchitis have a history of smoking. Secondhand smoke can also contribute to the development of chronic bronchitis. Other causes of chronic bronchitis include extended exposure to toxic gases, air pollution as well as industrial and chemical fumes.
Chronic bronchitis facts
More than 10 million Americans had chronic bronchitis in 2011, and 70 percent of those cases involved people over the age of 45.
Even though men and women can develop chronic bronchitis, women have chronic bronchitis at double the rate of men. In fact, in 2011 6.8 million women had chronic bronchitis while only 3.3 million men had it.
Many people with chronic bronchitis develop emphysema. In 2011, about 4.7 million Americans had emphysema with more than 90 percent of cases involving people over the age of 45. The incidence of emphysema has risen in women while it has declined in men.
The two main types of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. In fact, the United States may have anywhere from 12.7 to 24 million people with COPD, about half of which aren’t diagnosed. COPD affects both men and women. COPD is a progressive disease with no cure.
What are the treatments for chronic bronchitis?
Your chronic bronchitis treatment plan will depend on the severity of your condition. The most important step you can take now is to quit smoking. Many doctors prescribe bronchodilators to open up the airways in your lungs. Some doctors may prescribe a medication to relax the muscles in your airways while others may recommend corticosteroids. For some patients with chronic bronchitis, your doctor may recommend pulmonary rehabilitation, which is a program designed to help you improve your breathing and overall well-being. These treatments are meant to manage chronic bronchitis symptoms.
Many patients with chronic lung diseases have found alternative treatments, such as stem cell therapy, helpful in treating their conditions. Because stem cell therapy works to promote healing from within, it addresses the disease at its source. Many patients report being able to come off or reduce their oxygen use after treatment, and they report having an improved quality of life. While it’s helpful to know the chronic bronchitis facts, taking a proactive step in your healthcare is even more important. If you or someone you love has chronic bronchitis, emphysema of COPD and would like to learn more about stem cell treatment, contact us at (800) 729-3065.