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.
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.
Christine Kingsley, APRN is the Health and Wellness Director at the Lung Institute where she focuses on providing helpful online resources for people looking for information on various lung diseases, breathing exercises, and healthy lifestyle choices. She advocates for holistic care that involves working with your doctor to explore all options including traditional and alternative care while focusing on diet and exercise as proactive measures.