Bronchitis is the respiratory disease that causes inflammation of the membrane of the bronchi, which are the airways from the trachea to the lungs. As the inflammation grows it swells the airways causing the airways to narrow or shut off completely. This narrowing can result in coughing, which appears with thick phlegm and some breathlessness. Bronchitis comes in two forms; acute bronchitis, which is temporary, lasting less then six weeks, while the second, chronic bronchitis, may reoccur repeatedly for over two years. Additionally, people with asthma encounter an irritation of the lining of the bronchial tubes called asthmatic bronchitis.
Acute bronchitis is characterized by the advancement of a cough, with or without sputum, which is a mucus that is expelled from the respiratory tract. Acute bronchitis usually succeeds a viral respiratory infection, such as common colds or influenza. Viruses cause about 90% of cases of acute bronchitis while bacteria accounts for less then 10%. Other symptoms are sore throat, a runny nose, nasal congestion, low-grade fever, pleurisy, and malaise. People who are at risk for acute bronchitis can be the elderly, infants, young children, people with heart or lung disease, and smokers.
Chronic bronchitis is serious and is long-term and requires regular medical treatment. People with chronic bronchitis have a cough that generates an excessive amount of sputum. Chronic bronchitis is one type of COPD, short for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smoking cigerattes and tobacco are the most common cause of chronic bronchitis. Another cause of chronic bronchitis can be frequent attacks of acute bronchitis, which cripple and inflame bronchial airways in time. Industrial pollution can be another reason. Health care providers often use chest x-rays, lung function tests, pulse oximetry which helps determine the amount of oxygen in the blood, and sputum samples to determine the diagnosis of bronchitis.