Treatments for chronic bronchitis include medication, surgery, therapy and above all, lifestyle changes. While chronic bronchitis isn’t usually a life-threatening condition in and of itself, it can cause serious medical complications over time, so you should schedule an appointment with your doctor if you suspect you have it.
Bronchitis refers to inflammation of the breathing tubes, or bronchi, which in turn causes the body to produce large amounts of mucus. Acute bronchitis usually goes away within 10 weeks, although a cough may linger for sometime afterward. If you regularly have a cough and mucus for three months out of the year for two years in a row and it isn’t caused by some other source, however, then you have chronic bronchitis.
Causes and Symptoms of Chronic Bronchitis
When inflammation of the breathing tubes becomes severe enough, it takes much longer to go away. While the exact causes of a case of chronic bronchitis may not always be known, smoking is often tied to it due to the effect cigarette smoke has on the lungs. According to the University of California San Francisco, while only 15 percent of smokers develop it, more than 90 percent of people who do have chronic bronchitis have a history of smoking. That said, not everyone who gets chronic bronchitis has ever smoked. Frequent exposure to air pollution, toxic gases or airborne dust can also cause it.
Other factors that increase the likelihood of getting chronic bronchitis include exposure to childhood respiratory illnesses, secondhand smoke or a family history of lung disease. Women and people who experience gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) — more than two cases of acid reflux a week — are also more likely to develop it.
Symptoms of chronic bronchitis include frequent and persistent coughing and respiratory infections, shortness of breath during ordinary activities, fatigue, wheezing and unusual levels of mucus production. You may also experience chest pains and blueness around the lips or the bases of your fingernails.
Chronic bronchitis is a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a term doctors use to refer to a larger group of conditions that make it harder to breath over time. In the United States, it usually refers to chronic bronchitis or emphysema.