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Bronchitis (Chronic)

Chronic Bronchitis Quick Overview

Patient Comments
  • Bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways in the lungs. Acute bronchitis happens when this inflammation of the air passages comes on quickly and resolves within two to three weeks. Chronic bronchitis is when a cough with mucus persists for most days of the month, for at least three months, and at least two years in a row.
  • Chronic bronchitis is caused by
    • smoking,
    • inhaling irritating fumes or dust,
    • viruses such as the flu, and
    • bacteria.
  • Risk factors for chronic bronchitis include
  • Symptoms of chronic bronchitis include cough that persists for most days of the month, for at least three months, and at least two years in a row. Coughing may be painful and can cause chest and abdominal muscles to be sore. Other symptoms include wheezing and shortness of breath.
  • Chronic bronchitis is diagnosed based on the symptoms and physical exam. By definition, chronic bronchitis must persist for most days of the month, for at least three months, and at least two years in a row.
    • Treatment of chronic bronchitis depends on the cause. There is no cure, and treatment is aimed at reducing symptoms. Medications may be prescribed including
    • cough suppressants or expectorants,
    • bronchodilator inhalers,
    • nebulizer treatments,
    • corticosteroids (inhaled and oral), and
    • in some cases antibiotics.
  • Severe cases of chronic bronchitis may be treated with home oxygen or hospitalization.
  • The best way to prevent chronic bronchitis is not to smoke or be around secondhand smoke. Avoid exposure to inhaled irritants and air pollution, stay away from others who have a cold or the flu, and wash hands frequently to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Quitting smoking is the biggest factor in determining an individual's ultimate prognosis. Untreated or poorly managed chronic bronchitis can result in permanent and severe damage to the lungs.

What is chronic bronchitis?

Bronchitis is considered chronic when a cough with mucus persists for most days of the month, for at least three months, and at least two years in a row. Bronchitis occurs when the trachea (windpipe) and the large and small bronchi (airways) within the lungs become inflamed because of infection or irritation from other causes. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are forms of a condition characterized by progressive lung disease termed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Picture of the lung, bronchi, and airways of the lung
Picture of the lung, bronchi, and airways of the lung
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/3/2015
Medical Editor:

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Bronchitis (Chronic):

Bronchitis - Diagnosis

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Bronchitis - Length Symptoms Lasted

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Chronic Bronchitis - Causes

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Chronic Bronchitis - Medical Treatment

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Chronic Bronchitis - Home Remedies

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Bronchitis - Symptoms

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Bronchitis »

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, or bronchi.

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