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Bronchitis (cont.)

Chronic Bronchitis Symptoms

  • Cough is the most common symptom of chronic bronchitis. The cough may be dry or it may produce phlegm. Significant phlegm production suggests that the lower respiratory tract and the lung itself may be infected, symptoms which may also be concerning for pneumonia.
  • The cough in chronic bronchitis persists for most days of the month, for at least three months, and at least two years in a row.
  • Continued forceful coughing from chronic bronchitis may be painful, and can make your chest and abdominal muscles sore. Coughing can be severe enough at times to injure the chest wall, break ribs or even cause a person to pass out (faint).
  • During exacerbations (periods where the condition is worsens) of chronic bronchitis, wheezing may occur because of the muscular tightness and inflammation of the airways. This may leave the affected individual short of breath.
  • Asthmatic bronchitis symptoms include a combination of wheezing and shortness of breath, in addition to the other symptoms of chronic bronchitis.

When to Seek Medical Care for Chronic Bronchitis

When to call the doctor for chronic bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis can be diagnosed by your doctor. If you have been diagnosed with chronic bronchitis, see doctor if the following symptoms occur:

  • Increased shortness of breath
  • Chest pain with cough
  • Severe coughing that interferes with rest or sleep
  • Wheezing
  • Fever
  • Coughing up blood, rust-colored sputum, or an increased amount of green phlegm

When to go to the hospital for chronic bronchitis

Go to a hospital's emergency department immediately if the following symptoms occur:

  • Severe difficulty breathing with or without wheezing
  • Chest pain

Chronic Bronchitis Diagnosis

Health-care professionals diagnose chronic bronchitis on the basis of the patient's symptoms and physical examination. 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. A history of smoking is also pertinent in making the diagnosis.

  • Usually no blood tests are necessary.
  • If pneumonia is suspected, a chest X-ray may be ordered.
  • Oxygen saturation (how well oxygen is reaching the blood cells) may be measured by placing a sensor on the finger. This is referred to as pulse oximetry.
  • Pulmonary function testing by a pulmonologist may be helpful in diagnosing chronic bronchitis.
  • A microscopic examination and/or culture of a sample of phlegm may be obtained to look for a bacterial infection.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/3/2015
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