How Are Acute and Chronic Bronchitis Different?

February 8, 2024

When we hear people say they have bronchitis we might assume there is only one type, but did you know that there are two types of bronchitis—not one?

The bronchial tubes carry air to and from the lungs and bronchitis is an inflammation of their lining. Bronchitis can take two forms, acute and chronic. The two forms are contracted differently, and they are treated by different methods.

What Is Acute Bronchitis?

Acute bronchitis, or short-term bronchitis, is common and is typically caused by a virus. Bronchitis occurs when the airways to the lungs, the trachea and bronchi, become inflamed and filled with mucus. Often, a nagging cough develops as the body tries to dispel the mucus. Episodes of acute bronchitis can be related to and made worse by smoking.

Most symptoms of acute bronchitis can last up to two weeks, but the cough may last as long as eight weeks. Episodes of acute bronchitis can be related to and made worse by smoking.

Common Acute Bronchitis Symptoms

  • Back and muscle pain
  • Cough, both dry and productive (where mucus is produced)
  • Chest soreness
  • Chills
  • Feeling tired and achy
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Slight fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Watery eyes
  • Wheezing

What Is Chronic Bronchitis?

Chronic bronchitis is a long-term inflammation of the bronchial tubes. This type of bronchitis typically produces a mucus-filled cough that persists for three months out of the year and flares up for at least two consecutive years. Unlike acute bronchitis, it is not caused by a virus.

Chronic bronchitis is common among smokers with the smoking of tobacco products being the main cause. Due to the damage it causes to airways and lungs, chronic bronchitis falls within a larger group of lung diseases known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Symptoms of Chronic Bronchitis

  • Cough, often called smoker’s cough
  • Coughing up mucus
  • Wheezing
  • Chest discomfort

Treatments for chronic bronchitis include working with a respiratory therapist to improve breathing, taking prescription steroids, and using bronchodilator inhalers. Avoiding environmental irritants and quitting smoking can also help.

Potential Health Complications Caused by Chronic Bronchitis

  • Frequent and severe infections that affect the airways
  • Narrowing and plugging of the breathing tubes (bronchi)
  • Trouble breathing
  • Bluish fingernails, lips, and skin because of lower oxygen levels
  • Wheezing and crackling sounds with breathing
  • Swollen feet
  • Heart failure

Want to learn more about bronchitis? Contact AFC Urgent Care Sevierville today.

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