Overview of Bronchitis
Bronchitis is the inflammation of air tubes that function to carry air to the lungs. These air tubes are termed as bronchi and they divide into bronchiole. Bronchiole enter the lungs and are attached to alveoli. Alveoli are the points where exchange of gases between blood and lungs takes place. The bronchi is lined with mucous membrane, which becomes inflamed in bronchitis. Inflammation of these bronchi lead to respiratory problems, as the membrane thickens and produce extra mucous. Leading to narrowing of the air passage. There are two main forms of bronchitis, chronic and acute. Acute bronchitis is characterized by inflammation of air passage that last from 1 to 3 weeks. While chronic bronchitis can last from 3 months to 2-3 years. There is a third form of bronchitis, termed as asthmatic bronchitis. This type affects people who have asthma and lead to inflammation of bronchial tubes.
Causes and Risk Factors of Bronchitis
Usually, the causative agent of bronchitis is virus that effects the respiratory tract. About 90% of lung infections are of viral origin. But bacterial infection of bronchi is also common. Acute bronchitis is a common condition. Repetitive and recurrent infections of bronchi can lead to chronic bronchitis, as the air ways have been damaged and weakened by recurring infections. Common viruses that cause colds and flu can spread and cause inflammation of the mucous lining of bronchi. Chemical fumes, toxic vapors, industrial pollution and smoke lead to acute bronchitis, as these particles damage and cause inflammation of the lining of air passage. Smoking is a major risk factor for developing bronchitis. Tobacco causes permanent damage to the lining of air passage and destroy cilia present in the lungs. Cilia function to brush out irritants, debris and extra mucus from lungs. When cilia are damaged, recurrent episodes of acute bronchitis can occur and they become hard to treat. Chronic smoking lead to clogging of lungs and air passage that lead to a permanent lung damage called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Chronic bronchitis is a form of COPD, and is characterized by severe difficulty in breathing.
Signs and Symptoms of Bronchitis
The common symptoms of bronchitis include coughing, pain in chest, fever, increased production of mucous, fatigue, while shortness of breath and wheezing develop along with above symptoms when cough becomes chronic.