The official blog of the Lung Institute.

The Difference between Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis

The difference between emphysema and chronic bronchitis

Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are different types of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). With COPD, the lungs have developed permanent complications that affect the ease with which a person can breathe. Although COPD has no cure, there are now advancements in the form of stem cell therapy that may help.

Is it Emphysema or Chronic Bronchitis?

Emphysema and chronic bronchitis can be difficult to tell apart, but each presents problems with breathing and other lung symptoms. These conditions commonly affect normal airflow in the airways and lungs. They are usually caused by smoking, but can also be attributed to air pollution.

Emphysema involves the gradual destruction of the air sacs in the lungs (alveoli), hindering breathing. Alveoli are responsible for providing oxygen to the bloodstream. Over time, emphysema  weakens the alveoli and destroys the elasticity of pulmonary airways. As a result, emphysema sufferers experience shortness of breath and a constant struggle to breathe.


Chronic bronchitis is the opposite of emphysema. This condition causes a person’s lungs to become very inflamed. Bronchitis commonly affects the windpipe and passageways of the lungs and is the result of severe irritation or infection. It can be a brief illness, or ongoing (chronic). The body’s natural reaction to chronic bronchitis is to clear the air passages, resulting in severe coughing.

The difference between emphysema and chronic bronchitis lies in how each disease affects the lungs. The lack of a cure for either emphysema or chronic bronchitis doesn’t mean a lack of available treatment.

If you have exhausted conventional medical treatments and are looking for alternatives, stem cell treatment may be a viable option for you. If you or a loved one is interested in stem cell therapy for lung disease, contact the Lung Institute to learn more or call (800) 729-3065.


  1. Lung Institute

    4 weeks ago


    We are sorry to hear about your recent diagnosis. You certainly did the right first step by quitting smoking. Chronic Bronchitis is a form of lung disease, but you would need to see your doctor and have him/her tell you what stage you are in. For us to treat you, you will need to have a diagnosis of a lung disease. We’re happy to answer your questions about stem cell treatment for chronic lung diseases, so feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 to speak with our knowledgeable medical team. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Kind regards,

    The Lung Institute

  2. Crystal

    3 months ago

    I have had an upper re infection for 3 months now and my doctor told me today its chronic bronchitIs. Ive been on manY rounds of antibiotics these past 3 months and nothing has helped. What does this mean for me now??? I am in the process of quiting smoking. I was reading over the paperwork and its said its a form of COPD how bad is this?

  3. Phoebe

    4 months ago

    Hi F. David,

    First and foremost, we want to thank you for your service to our country. COPD encompasses both chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Sometimes, one of the diseases may be more prevalent than the other. However, it’s possible to have chronic bronchitis and also develop emphysema. You can read more about COPD, chronic bronchitis and emphysema by clicking here. We’re happy to answer your questions about stem cell therapy for chronic lung diseases, so feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 to speak one-on-one with our medical team over our secure line. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  4. F.David Daniels

    4 months ago

    After the service, I had many bouts of bronchitis. I’m now almost 70, and the VA says I have emphysema. Can bronchitis turn into emphysema (COpd) I was a jet engine mech., & was AROUND Jo4 fuel, and jet exhaust. Thanks

  5. Phoebe

    4 months ago

    Hi Pat,

    First and foremost, it’s highly important to talk with your doctor about anything you are unclear about or any questions you have. In general, the acronyms you listed here refer to certain types of heart problems. After doing a Google search, we found the following information: the term EF, or ejection fraction, refers to the percentage of blood that is pumped out of a filled ventricle with each heartbeat. The term HF means heart failure, and CHF means congestive heart failure. Heart failure and congestive heart failure refer to the inability of the heart to keep up with the demands on it. This can mean failure of the heart to pump blood with normal efficiency.

    Always talk with your doctor about your questions, concerns and symptoms. Your doctor will be able to explain these terms to you, and he or she will work with you to develop a treatment plan. We hope this information is helpful to you.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  6. Pat

    4 months ago

    What is EF, HF, and CHF? I have COPD, But I don’t know what these things mean. Sorry about the caps, but my computer keys are stuck.

  7. Matt

    7 months ago

    Hello Charles,
    Thank you for your post. We’re glad to hear you’re feeling better. If you ever want to learn more about the Lung Institute, please give us a call at (855) 313-1149. Thanks again and have a great day.

  8. Charles Pasdach

    7 months ago

    I got over a serious bronchial about 3months ago. I was sick everyday couldnt breath without an inhaler man did i suffer for almost 9 months i wanted to end it all. But i hung in there took all the medications prescribed, meditated and tried many healing techniques. I also had shortness of breath sometimes. I’ve been feeling fine for about 3 months now without any symptoms. Im 64 and smoked for 35 years. I quit years ago. I believe I’ll be ok now because the 9 months of suffering was brought on by a lung infection. I believe I’m healed. But still keeping my fingers crossed.

  9. PB

    11 months ago

    Dear Alex,

    Thanks for your comment. We’re sorry to hear that you have been going through such a difficult time with wheezing and are having difficulty breathing during normal activities. It’s important to share this information and your symptoms with your doctor. Your doctor may want to perform some tests and may want you to see a pulmonologist, who is a lung specialist. Because wheezing and shortness of breath can be caused by a variety of conditions, it’s very important to discuss these symptoms and your overall health with your doctor. Because your doctor knows you and your health situation well, he or she will be able to best guide you. We wish you the best.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  10. Alex

    11 months ago

    Whenever I lay down, I have constant weezing. I’ve never smoked and I don’t have difficulty breathing during normal everyday activities. PLease advise. Thank you.

  11. Pingback: Difference Between Lung Disease Bronchitis Emphysema – Healthy Diet For Healthy Life

  12. sh

    1 year ago

    Dear Sharra,

    We recommend that you discuss this type of case-specific question with your doctor. Your physician will have the expertise to diagnose your condition more effectively than anyone. Once you have a solid diagnosis from your doctor, please contact us at (855) 313-1149 to find out if you are a candidate for stem cell therapy. We wish you all the best.

    The Lung Institute

  13. sharra

    1 year ago

    If a blood test says you have no infection, and the next day your doctor says you have COPD, then, it seems like you have emphysema and not chronic bronchitis? Right? My GP doesn’t answer this question.

  14. Pingback: COPD differences: Emphysema vs. chronic bronchitis

  15. PB

    1 year ago

    Dear Nora,

    We’re sorry to hear that you’re going through such difficult time with coughing. We recommend discussing your questions and concerns about your cough, possible allergies and any other questions you have with your doctor. Because your doctor knows you and your health well, he or she will be able to guide you. You may want to consider seeing a doctor who is an allergy specialist as well as your pulmonologist and primary care doctor.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  16. Nora lowe

    1 year ago

    I have had a kitten for 7 months now which I think I am allergic to how can I tell if my cough is due to my cat or bronchitis I had my cough before I got my kitten how can I tell the difference

  17. PB

    2 years ago

    Dear HCS,

    We’re sorry to hear about the symptoms you have been having. However, it’s good that you have quit smoking, which is something that can be challenging to do. In regards to the dark colored mucus you’ve been coughing up, it’s important to tell your doctor about the mucus, any new or worsening symptoms, and any questions or concerns you have. Because your doctor knows you and your health condition best, he or she will be able to help you the most.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  18. hcs

    2 years ago

    hello, i was a smoker between 1992-2014 and was smoking on an average about half a pack a day. i quit cold turkey a while back. for a while now, i notice that in the early morning i need to clear my throat and when i do that with a few coughs, i spit out a dark colored mucus. i do not cough during the day. i have no trouble doing some reasonable exercise every day – like walking 3-5 miles every day at a decent pace without any difficulty in breathing etc. i am worried about the dark colored mucus – is it the lung cleaning itself or could it be symptomatic of something really bad? thanks.

  19. PB

    2 years ago

    Hello Nancy,

    It’s important to remember to always wear a mask when painting. Also, it’s important to speak with your doctor about any questions or concerns you may have.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  20. nancy harpster

    2 years ago

    I started out with viral bronghitis, my son was using his house enclosure, spraying gifhky toxic aerasol paints used in painting moticycle parts wear no nasks to keep from breathing the fumes.
    How likey was the inhalation of aerosol paunts and clear coat. Baking some clear ciated parts in kitchen oven effect the lungs??

  21. Bayan TAZ

    2 years ago

    Yes CHF and COPD are related
    That is because in COPD u have increased pulmonary resistance and that leads to preserved EF HF
    Just make sure to mention your family history to your doctor in order to do the right follow up with you case

  22. Pingback: Lung Institute | Biological Sex as a Risk Factor for COPD

  23. Catherine Templet

    3 years ago

    I have copd chronic bronchitis. There are days when I need my oxygen 24-7. My dad had it,my brother, my sister they all had it. They died of chf. Is CHF and COPD

  24. Pingback: Biological Sex as a Risk Factor for COPD

  25. Pingback: COPD Awareness Month

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