Chronic Bronchitis

At INTEGRIS Health, we’ll do all we can to help you breathe easier and ease the symptoms of chronic bronchitis.

Managing the cough that just won't go away.

Two Kinds of Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an inflammation of your breathing tubes (airways) called bronchi. This causes increased production of mucus and other changes, and although there are several different types of bronchitis, they fall into two categories: acute and chronic. "Acute" means that the bronchitis is likely to not last long, and that it's a temporary condition. Bronchitis is "chronic" when cough and expectoration occur most days for at least three months per year, and for two years in a row.

What's the Cause?

Unlike acute bronchitis, where bacteria or viruses may be the cause, with chronic bronchitis there is typically no specific organism recognized as the source of the disease. Cigarette smoking is the most common contributor to chronic bronchitis, followed by infections and environmental pollution like chemical fumes, dust, and other substances. Chronic bronchitis is also often associated with other pulmonary diseases, like pulmonary emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, asthma, tuberculosis, sinusitis and upper respiratory infections.

At INTEGRIS Health, we'll do all we can to help you breathe easier and ease the symptoms of this frustrating, uncomfortable condition.

Understanding Chronic Bronchitis

The following are the most common symptoms for chronic bronchitis. However, you may experience symptoms differently – and these symptoms may resemble other conditions or medical problems, so it's always best to talk with your doctor. Chronic bronchitis symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Expectoration (coughing up) of mucus.
  • Frequent and severe respiratory infections.
  • Narrowing and plugging of the breathing tubes (bronchi).
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Bluish appearance of the lips and skin because of decreased oxygen levels.
  • Abnormal lung sounds.
  • Swelling of the feet.
  • Heart failure.

For bronchitis to be considered "chronic," cough and expectoration must occur most days for at least three months per year, for two years in a row. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, your doctor may request the following:

Pulmonary Function Tests: Diagnostic tests that help to measure the lungs' ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide appropriately. The tests are usually performed with special machines that the person must breathe into, and may include the following:

  • Spirometry: The test is performed by blowing as hard as possible into a tube connected to a small machine (a spirometer) that measures the amount and speed of air breathed in and out. This is one of the simplest, most common pulmonary function tests and is used for the following:
    • Determining how well the lungs receive, hold and utilize air
    • Monitoring lung disease
    • Monitoring effectiveness of treatment
    • Determining severity of a lung disease
    • Determining whether the lung disease is restrictive (decreased airflow) or obstructive (disruption of airflow)
  • Peak Flow Monitor (PFM): A device used to measure the fastest speed which you can blow air out of your lungs. During an asthma or other respiratory flare up, the large airways in the lungs slowly begin to narrow. This will slow the speed of air leaving the lungs and can be measured with a PFM. This measurement is very important in evaluating how well or how poorly the disease is being controlled.

Other Tests:

  • Arterial Blood Gas (ABG): A blood test that is used to evaluate the lungs' ability to provide blood with oxygen and remove carbon dioxide, and to measure the pH (acidity) of the blood.
  • Pulse Oximetry: An oximeter is a small machine that measures the amount of oxygen in the blood. To obtain this measurement, a small sensor (like a Band-Aid) is taped onto your finger or toe.
  • X-Ray: A diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
  • Computed Tomography Scan (CT or CAT Scan): A diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.

Specific treatment for chronic bronchitis will be determined by your doctor based on your age, overall health, medical history, the extent of the disease and your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies. Of course, your personal opinions and preferences will also be taken into consideration. Treatments may include:

  • Oral Medications
  • Inhaled Medications, such as bronchodilators
  • Oxygen Supplementation from portable containers
  • Lung Reduction Surgery to remove damaged areas of lung
  • Lung Transplantation (in rare cases)

At INTEGRIS, we know that the impacts from lung disease go far beyond the basics of breathing. That’s why we bring you a variety of support services to help you with anything you might face – from oxygen and medication management to stress management and emotional support.

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