I have been diagnosed as having chronic bronchitis.  I have had many attacks both small and large, and have a rescue inhaler like Albuterol and a nebulizer for when the airways become too restricted and I have acute trouble breathing.  My doctor suggested that I stop smoking and the problem would clear up unless I had an allergic reaction.  He also suggested I do some research so I would completely understand this disease. I hope the material contained in this write-up will help to inform you on some aspects of chronic bronchitis. 

Causes

There are several causes of chronic bronchitis and the most important is smoking   Environmental pollution can also be a major cause.  Some smokers will not develop bronchitis and it can not be determined which smokers will contract it.  Chronic bronchitis is said to affect over 10% of the population in the United States.  Infections and allergies can exacerbate an attack of this disease.

There is evidence to show that it doesn't matter what the person's occupation is or what their lifestyle is like, smokers are always the highest risk group to develop chronic bronchitis.  People who work in a place where the dust concentrations are at an extremely high level, or at a place that has several fumes in the air, that may irritate the bronchial tubes, are also at high risk of developing bronchitis.  People who work in coal mines and those who work in such places like grain elevators, run a high risk of developing this disease.  Those who work at a foundry inhale a large quantity of sulphur dioxide due to the conditions of their workplace.  This causes the symptoms of chronic bronchitis to become worse as time goes on.

Complications

Individuals often neglect chronic bronchitis until it is at a more advanced state.  They mistakenly believe that this disease is not of a life-threatening nature.  By the time the patient finally goes to their physician, the lungs could have already been seriously damaged.  Then, the patient could face the danger of developing serious respiratory problems or heart failure.

Chronic bronchitis does not strike quickly.  In the winter, the person may be under the impression that their cold is cured, but, they may still be coughing and producing mucus in large amounts for weeks after the cold ends.  Smokers, which make up the largest group of those who get bronchitis, more frequently have a cough that most will try to pass off as being a smoker's cough.  But, as time progresses, they will suffer more damage to their lungs after each cold.  The production of phlegm increases after each cold.

Without realizing it, patients begin to take the coughing and mucus as a part of their daily life.  Soon, the symptoms are present all the time, before, during and after colds all year round.  Usually, the patient's cough is worse in the morning and in damp cold weather.  Patients may produce over an ounce of yellow mucous each day. (yuck

Other illnesses will complicate chronic bronchitis, such as, emphysema and pneumonia.  This form of bronchitis stems from COPD, which along with emphysema, asthma, and chronic bronchitis are one of the main causes of death in the United States.

Treatment

The treatment for this disease is mainly aimed at reducing the irritation in the bronchial tubes.  The use of antibiotic drugs has been helpful in the treatment of acute infections linked to chronic bronchitis.  However, most patients with this disease do not need to stay on antibiotics for long periods of time. 

Bronchodilator drugs are sometimes prescribed to help open up and relax the air passages in the lungs.  If these close up frequently, then the patient may be instructed to use an aerosol inhaler, such as Albuterol or a nebulizerCorticosteroids may also be used to reduce wheezing and breathing problems. 

Avoiding Irritants

People who suffer from chronic bronchitis need to remove as many sources that may cause irritation or infection to their sinuses, nasal cavity, and bronchial tubes, this includes smoking and second-hand smoke.

If the patient works in an environment where they are exposed to dust or fumes, their physician may suggest changing jobs or at least changing their work environment.  People with chronic bronchitis are encouraged to develop a plan for a healthy lifestyle that they will follow.  Improving the patient's general health helps to increase the body's resistance to infection.  A good health plan for those with this disease should include the following rules according to the American Lung Association: 

  • Avoid exposure to colds and influenza as much as possible, and avoid irritants such as second hand smoke or any other air pollutants.
  • See your doctor at the first signs of a cold or respiratory infection.
  • Follow a well balanced diet and try to maintain your ideal body weight.
  • Get regular exercise without tiring yourself too much.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Ask your doctor if you should get vaccinated against influenza and pneumonia.

Due to having chronic bronchitis and being a smoker, my doctor recommend that I use the Nicotrol Inhaler to aid in the cessation of smoking.  It helped me immensely.


Sources: Medline Plus. 21 Aug 2004 http://medlineplus.gov/
Margolis, Dr. Simeon. The Johns Hopkins Medical Handbook. : Rebus, Inc., 2000.

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