What is chronic bronchitis?

Chronic bronchitis, which is a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is an ongoing inflammation of the airways leading to the lungs (bronchi). It is characterized by a cough, mucus production, shortness of breath, and wheezing that persist for longer than three months.

Chronic bronchitis is a common respiratory disorder in the United States. People of all ages can develop chronic bronchitis, but it is most common in people over age 45. Chronic bronchitis affects about 10 million people in the United States, and the condition affects more than twice as many women as men (Source: ALA).

The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking, and the risk of chronic bronchitis increases with the longer you smoke. Exposure to air pollution, secondhand smoke, gases, and chemical fumes can also increase your risk of chronic bronchitis.

Treatment for chronic bronchitis includes bronchodilators, anti-inflammatory drugs, and chest physical therapy for loosening mucus in the lungs. Healthy lifestyle practices, including hand washing to prevent infection, drinking plenty of fluids, following a well-balanced diet, getting plenty of rest, and refraining from smoking, can reduce your risk of chronic bronchitis and improve your symptoms.

Left untreated, chronic bronchitis can be associated with serious or even life-threatening symptoms. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for severe difficulty breathing, which may be accompanied by pale or blue lips, rapid heart rate, sweating, and anxiety.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for chronic bronchitis but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.


What are the symptoms of chronic bronchitis?

Chronic bronchitis causes inflammation of the bronchi, resulting in a number of respiratory symptoms, including wheezing and a cough with mucus. The symptoms can vary in intensity among individuals.

Common symptoms of chronic bronchitis

You may experience chronic bronchitis symptoms daily or just once in a while. At times, any of these chronic bronchitis symptoms can be... Read more about chronic bronchitissymptoms


What causes chronic bronchitis?

Chronic bronchitis is a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that causes inflammation in the bronchi, resulting in a cough, mucus production, and shortness of breath. The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking. Your risk of chronic bronchitis is increased by certain jobs, including those involving livestock, grain, textiles, manufacturing, and coal mining, as well as by exp... Read more about chronic bronchitiscauses


How is chronic bronchitis treated?

Treatment for chronic bronchitis begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. The goal of treatment for chronic bronchitis is to reduce inflammation and congestion and improve breathing. Chronic bronchitis is not typically treated with antibiotics, except in cases of sudden exacerbations. Quitting smoking is the best way to improve symptoms. Treatment for chronic bronchitis ... Read more about chronic bronchitistreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Lungs, Breathing and Respiration

Popular Lungs, Breathing and Respiration Slide Shows

Personal Story Network

A place where patients, healthcare providers, caregivers, and innovators share their personal stories about healing, and hope within the healthcare system and beyond.