Bronchitis is an inflammation of the large, flexible passages that carry air to and from your lungs. It can vary in severity, with symptoms ranging from a chronic, productive cough and sore throat to more severe acute exacerbations.
Bronchitis has many causes, including cigarette or tobacco smoke, air pollution, and infections such as the flu, strep throat, or pneumonia. As a bacterial infection is the usual cause, antibiotics can relieve symptoms and shorten the length of time you're sick. In many cases, cough medications can help alleviate the symptoms.
Pathophysiology and Risk Factors
The common denominator in all cases is inflammation of the bronchial tubes. This is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection such as the common cold, influenza, or rhinovirus.
Risk factors are the same whether the cause is bacterial or viral. The most significant is cigarette smoke because it contains harmful chemicals and lung irritants. These cause inflammation in bronchial tubes and air sacs and encourage infection. Other common causes are lung irritants such as air pollution, dust, pollen, animal dander, and environmental toxins from asbestos or chemical fumes.
Another risk factor is respiratory diseases. Smokers with pre-existing lung disease are much more likely to develop this illness than non-smokers in the same demographic. Individuals with heart problems and congestive heart failure also have an increased risk of developing acute or chronic bronchitis.