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    Acute and Chronic Bronchitis

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    Bronchitis is an inflammation of the membrane that lines the air passages, or bronchial tubes, of the lungs and results in the narrowing of these air passages. This disorder may be of either an acute or chronic type. Irritation of mucus-producing glands within the membrane results in the production of excess bronchial secretions.

    The main symptoms of bronchitis are cough and increased expectoration of sputum, with or without associated wheezing and shortness of breath. Acute bronchitis is usually caused by infection by one of the many viruses that cause the common cold or influenza and is frequently associated with measles. The patient may suffer from additional symptoms, such as chest discomfort, fever, and aching, that are characteristic of these diseases. Whooping cough is a form of severe bronchitis caused by the bacterium Hemophilus pertussis. Treatment of a pure viral infection is directed toward the relief of symptoms, but frequently secondary infections by bacteria complicate the condition. In such a case, the patient’s sputum may turn from white to yellow (purulent, or pus containing), and treatment with various antibiotics is recommended.

    Acute chemical bronchitis may be caused by the inhalation of irritating fumes, such as smoke, chlorine, ammonia, and ozone. Chronic bronchitis results from prolonged irritation of the bronchial membrane, causing cough and excessive secretion of mucus for extended periods. The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is cigarette smoking, but air pollution and industrial fume and dust inhalation are also important irritants. Patients with chronic bronchitis are subject to recurrent infections with H.

    Influenzae and pneumococci. Pulmonary emphysema often coexists, and over a long period of time, the patient may suffer from increasing breathlessness, decreasing exercise tolerance, and finally, total disability. In the most severe forms of the disease, the patient may have a blue, bloated appearance and a fatal heart disease known as cor pulmonale. – Howard Buechner, M.D.

    Bibliography: Burrows, B., Respiratory Disorders (1983); Fletcher, C., et al., The Natural History of Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema (1976); Pennington, J. E., ed., Respiratory Infections (1983).

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    Acute and Chronic Bronchitis. (2019, Jan 27). Retrieved from

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