Bronchitis is a respiratory disease that causes inflammation in the mucus membrane of the lungs’ bronchial passages. Bronchitis causes coughing spells that can be accompanied by phlegm and breathlessness. These coughing spells are due to the inflamed mucus membranes narrowing or closing off tiny airways in the lungs.
Bronchitis comes in two forms – acute and chronic.
Acute bronchitis is generally caused by lung infections, most of which are viral infections. Acute bronchitis lasts one to three weeks and often clears up on its own within a few days of recovering from the lung infection. However, if you’re a smoker it will be much harder to recover from bronchitis. Repeated bouts of acute bronchitis can lead to development of chronic bronchitis.
Chronic bronchitis is a serious condition that requires medical treatment. It is one of the types of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), the other type being emphysema. Chronic bronchitis is often caused by heavy smoking which damages the cilia, the hair-like structures in your lungs that are responsible for removing debris, irritants and excess mucus. Another cause of chronic bronchitis is industrial pollution such as fumes and dust.
If you have acute bronchitis you generally don’t need to see your doctor to be treated unless you develop a fever, have persistent symptoms or have trouble breathing. On the other hand, if you have chronic bronchitis you will need to be monitored by a doctor.