The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an umbrella term for a few different conditions. One of these diseases in chronic bronchitis, and another is emphysema.
What is Chronic Bronchitis?
You’ve probably heard of acute bronchitis, which is a common wintertime ailment, usually occurring with an upper respiratory infection. Acute bronchitis usually clears up quickly, and only happens maybe once a year for a healthy person. Chronic bronchitis lasts much longer than acute bronchitis – the standard definition is that if bronchitis lasts for at least three months of the year for two years in a row, then it is chronic.
Chronic bronchitis is a form of COPD, and the symptoms include:
- Irritating cough with mucus
- Cough that is worse in the morning, and in cold weather
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
The longer-term effect of all this coughing is scarring in the lungs, and a thickening of the airway linings. Unfortunately, many people with chronic bronchitis ignore the symptoms. They write it off as getting sick again, as “smoker’s cough,” or they don’t think it’s serious. Over time though, it is serious.
Cause of Chronic Bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis does not happen suddenly, it progresses gradually. The main cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking. Breathing in other fumes, which would usually occur in workplaces like mines or metalworking, can also cause chronic bronchitis. But smoking is the more common cause because tobacco smoke irritates the airways and causes them to produce mucus. Long exposure to tobacco smoke (or other irritants) causes chronic bronchitis to develop. It can even develop in people who quit smoking over a decade ago, so the best thing you can do for your health is quit.
Prevalence of Chronic Bronchitis
How many people have chronic bronchitis? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 8.7 million Americans are diagnosed with chronic bronchitis. Another 4.1 million Americans have emphysema, the other main form of COPD. And millions of others are walking around undiagnosed.
There are a variety of medicines available to treat chronic bronchitis, and staying active and exercising can help strengthen the muscles that help you breathe, and help your lung function. Other treatments include pulmonary rehabilitation. Stem cell therapy is another option- click here to learn more about stem cell treatment for chronic bronchitis.