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Bronchitis


Overview :

Although acute and chronic bronchitis are both inflammations of the air passages, their causes and treatments are different. Acute bronchitis is most prevalent in winter. It usually follows a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu, and can be accompanied by a secondary bacterial infection. Acute bronchitis resolves within two weeks, although the cough may persist longer. Acute bronchitis, like any upper airway inflammatory process, can increase a person's likelihood of developing pneumonia.

Anyone can get acute bronchitis, but infants, young children, and the elderly are more likely to get the disease because people in these age groups generally have weaker immune systems. Smokers and people with heart or other lung diseases are also at higher risk of developing acute bronchitis. Individuals exposed to chemical fumes or high levels of air pollution also have a greater chance of developing acute bronchitis.

Chronic bronchitis is a major cause of disability and death in the United States. The American Lung Association estimates that about 14 million Americans suffer from the disease. Like acute bronchitis, chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of airways accompanied by coughing and spitting up of phlegm. In chronic bronchitis, these symptoms are present for at least three months in each of two consecutive years.

Chronic bronchitis is caused by inhaling bronchial irritants, especially cigarette smoke. Until recently, more men than women developed chronic bronchitis, but as the number of women who smoke has increased, so has their rate of chronic bronchitis. Because this disease progresses slowly, middle-aged and older people are more likely to be diagnosed with chronic bronchitis.

KEY TERMS

Acute—Disease or condition characterized by the rapid onset of severe symptoms.

Bronchi—The larger air tubes of the lung that bring air in from the trachea.

Chronic—Disease or condition characterized by slow onset over a long period of time.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)—A term used to describe chronic lung diseases, like chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma.

Emphysema—One of the several diseases called chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, emphysema involves the destruction of air sac walls to form abnormally large air sacs that have reduced gas exchange ability and that tend to retain air within the lungs. Symptoms include labored breathing, the inability to forcefully blow air out of the lungs, and an increased susceptibility to respiratory tract infections.

Chronic bronchitis is one of a group of diseases that fall under the name chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Other diseases in this category include emphysema and chronic asthmatic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis may progress to emphysema, or both diseases may be present together.




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