Obstructive chronic bronchitis refers to the persistent and chronic inflammation of the airways in the lungs. It is one of a duo of pulmonary conditions that make up chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. While bronchitis can occur acutely, the chronic form of the condition lasts a minimum of three months at a time, with this occurring at least two years in a row.
The most common chronic bronchitis symptoms are a mucus producing cough, shortness of breath and wheezing. Some people may experience fatigue, fever and occasionally, chest pain. In persistent cases, these chronic bronchitis symptoms continue for months at a time. Most often, repeated injury or illness to the respiratory system is what leads to the development of the condition. Smoking cigarettes is the single most common cause, however obstructive chronic bronchitis may also occur in cases of occupational inhalation of fumes and chemicals.
Throat phlegm, or sputum, that is produced in the respiratory system and then coughed up in response to bronchitis, is one of the most common symptoms of the condition. The phlegm can be a wide variety of colors from green to yellow and even whitish to orange. Sometimes, throat phlegm may appear pink or reddish or even brown in color. Many times, this can be attributed to coughing up blood, which unfortunately may occur in some more severe cases of obstructive chronic bronchitis and also pneumonia.
Much of the time, people with unending cases of bronchitis suffer for long periods of time, and may occasionally have breaks in between long spells where breathing may be easier and coughing may be less abundant. However, exacerbation may occur, that can dramatically increase the severity and symptoms of the condition. An exacerbation of chronic bronchitis refers to the sudden onset of far worse than usual COPD signs and symptoms, which can mean changes in severity of cough, a reduced ability to breathe easily and changes to the color of produced phlegm, for a period of several days. During an exacerbation of obstructive chronic bronchitis, discomfort in the chest may become more apparent and feelings of congestion may increase. The actual viscosity of mucus may also be increased as it may thicken and multiply in volume. Serious complications can result from an exacerbation of chronic bronchitis, including a sudden collapse of a lung.
Exacerbations are almost exclusively caused by infections and they’re responsible for bringing on a bout in almost 3 out of 4 cases. Many times, the same types of germs that cause viral bronchitis are to blame; however symptoms are dramatically intensified because of the already existing illness. In other cases, bacteria can lead to an exacerbation and in less frequent cases; both viral bronchitis and that caused by bacteria may be the source of an exacerbation. Aside from infections, the leading cause of exacerbation in obstructive chronic bronchitis, toxins, pollutants, improper medication use and allergies may all additionally be able to cause an acute case of worsening bronchitis.
Bronchitis treatment when exacerbations occur is different than how day to day chronic forms of the condition are treated. For persons suffering from long lasting bouts of bronchitis, bronchodilators and antibiotics may be implemented for care. Aside from these measures however, there are few care options for day to day chronic bronchitis treatment. Sometimes over the counter medications can be used for symptom relief however, should a doctor deem them safe. Conversely, bronchitis treatment in the case of exacerbations may be very different. Sometimes, drugs called mucolytic agents may be used to thin out mucus, and steroids may be implemented in order to quickly reduce inflammation. Oxygen may sometimes be implemented if the exacerbation is severe, and medications like Theophylline may be used to assist in breathing as well. Aside from these different types of treatments, similar treatments may be used in exacerbated forms of chronic obstructive bronchitis that are used in the everyday chronic form. These include antibiotics if infection is suspected as well as bronchodilators to help open up airways.
Chronic bronchitis is a progressive condition that, like emphysema, comprises COPD, one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Day to day management of the chronic bronchitis can be bothersome, however a sudden exacerbation can be very serious or even life threatening. Paying attention to the signs and symptoms that an exacerbation is happening and receiving proper medical care if required can help minimize the risk of complications. Additionally, preventative measure like quitting smoking and vaccinations for common exacerbation causing pathogens can help to reduce the risk of exacerbation in the first place.