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Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis, along with emphysema, is one of the lung diseases that comprise COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). A chronic disease, such as chronic bronchitis, is a type of condition that goes on for a long time and does not go away but does have ups and downs in the symptoms that are present. Your symptoms may get better or worse over time and there are treatments available to help control your symptoms, so you feel better.

Chronic bronchitis should not be confused with acute bronchitis, which usually develops from a respiratory infection like a cold and goes away in a week or two. Individuals with chronic bronchitis can get an episode of acute bronchitis on top of their chronic condition.  Symptoms may linger longer in this situation.

Key Facts

  • Bronchitis is a condition in which the airways that move air to and from your lungs, also called bronchial tubes, become inflamed. This irritation causes symptoms such as cough with mucus production, shortness of breath, chest discomfort and fatigue and at times wheezing. In this situation, the term asthmatic bronchitis is often used.
  • To diagnose chronic (or long-lasting) bronchitis, your healthcare provider will look for a productive cough (producing mucus) that lasts at least three months and happens multiple times over the course of at least two years.
  • Cigarette smoking is the major cause of chronic bronchitis. Other factors that increase your risk of developing this disease include exposure to air pollution as well as dust or toxic gases in the workplace or environment.  It may also occur more frequently in individuals who have a family history of bronchitis.
  • Chronic bronchitis is not curable but certainly varies in the number of symptoms that are present from individual to individual. There are treatments that can help you manage the symptoms of the disease.

Visit our COPD section to learn more »

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