Chronic bronchitis is a condition that can be debilitating if left untreated. That’s why Manse Medical provides different forms of chronic bronchitis treatment, so you can alleviate your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
In this article; we’ll discuss what chronic bronchitis is, as well as how it can be treated, and more.
What is chronic bronchitis?
Chronic bronchitis is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) characterised by inflammation and narrowing of the airways that connect the trachea (windpipe) to the lungs. It is a long-term condition that causes cough, mucus production, and difficulty breathing.
Chronic bronchitis is defined as a cough that lasts for at least three months in a year for two consecutive years. It is a serious condition that can lead to complications such as respiratory failure and heart problems if left untreated.
What causes chronic bronchitis?
Chronic bronchitis is typically caused by long-term exposure to irritants that damage the airways and cause inflammation. The most common irritant is cigarette smoke, but other environmental factors such as air pollution, dust, and fumes from chemicals or solvents can also contribute to the development of chronic bronchitis.
In some cases, chronic bronchitis can also be caused by repeated respiratory infections that damage the airways and make them more susceptible to inflammation. Bacterial and viral infections that cause acute bronchitis can increase the risk of developing chronic bronchitis.
Certain genetic factors and occupational exposures can also increase the risk of developing chronic bronchitis. People with a family history of lung disease, or who work in industries such as construction, mining, and agriculture, may be more likely to develop the condition.
What are the symptoms of chronic bronchitis?
The symptoms of chronic bronchitis can vary in severity and may include:
- Persistent cough is the hallmark symptom of chronic bronchitis. The cough may produce mucus, which can be clear, white, yellow, or green
- People with chronic bronchitis may feel short of breath, especially during physical activity or exertion
- Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound that occurs when breathing. It is caused by narrowed airways and can be a symptom of chronic bronchitis
- People with chronic bronchitis may experience a feeling of tightness or pressure in their chest, which can make breathing more difficult
- Chronic bronchitis can cause fatigue and a lack of energy, especially if the symptoms are severe
- People with chronic bronchitis may experience frequent respiratory infections, such as colds or the flu, as their immune system is compromised due to the chronic inflammation in their airways
- In severe cases of chronic bronchitis, there may be a lack of oxygen in the blood, leading to bluish discoloration of the lips or fingernail beds
Who is at risk for chronic bronchitis?
Several factors can increase the risk of developing chronic bronchitis, including:
- The most significant risk factor for chronic bronchitis is smoking, as it damages the lining of the airways and reduces the ability of the lungs to clear mucus. Long-term exposure to secondhand smoke can also increase the risk of developing chronic bronchitis
- Exposure to irritants and pollutants in the environment, such as air pollution, dust, and fumes from chemicals or solvents, can also contribute to the development of chronic bronchitis
- Repeated respiratory infections can damage the airways and make them more susceptible to inflammation, increasing the risk of developing chronic bronchitis
- Certain genetic factors may also increase the risk of developing chronic bronchitis, especially in people with a family history of lung disease
- People who work in industries such as construction, mining, and agriculture may be more likely to develop chronic bronchitis due to exposure to dust, chemicals, and other irritants
- Chronic bronchitis is more common in older adults, especially those over the age of 40
How is chronic bronchitis diagnosed?
Chronic bronchitis is typically diagnosed through a combination of medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. The doctor will first ask about your symptoms, medical history, and any risk factors you may have for chronic bronchitis, such as smoking or exposure to irritants or pollutants.
During a physical exam, the doctor will listen to your lungs using a stethoscope to check for wheezing, crackles, or other abnormal sounds. They may also look for signs of respiratory distress, such as rapid breathing or using accessory muscles to breathe.
What tests are used to diagnose chronic bronchitis?
Manse Medical uses several diagnostic tests that help evaluate lung function and subsequently diagnose respiratory conditions such as chronic bronchitis, including;
- Bronchial provocation test
- Gas transfer
- Lung function testing
- Lung volumes
- MIPS and MEPS
- 6-minute walk test
It is important to diagnose chronic bronchitis early because it is a progressive condition that can lead to serious complications if left untreated.
What treatment options are available for chronic bronchitis?
Treatment options for chronic bronchitis typically involve a combination of medications, lifestyle changes, and therapies to manage symptoms and prevent complications. Some of these options include:
There are several medications that can be used to treat chronic bronchitis, including:
- Bronchodilators which relax the muscles around the airways, making it easier to breathe.
- Inhaled steroids that reduce inflammation in the airways, which can help reduce symptoms.
- Combination inhalers that contain both a bronchodilator and an inhaled steroid, which can provide more comprehensive symptom relief.
- Phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors that can help reduce inflammation in the airways by blocking the activity of an enzyme called phosphodiesterase-4.
- Antibiotics, which help in the event that a bacterial infection is suspected or diagnosed.
Inhalers and nebulisers
Inhalers and nebulisers are devices that deliver medication directly to the lungs, helping to reduce inflammation and ease breathing for chronic bronchitis. Here are some examples:
- Metered-dose inhalers (MDIs), which are small, handheld devices that deliver a measured dose of medication in an aerosol form. Examples of medications used in MDIs for chronic bronchitis include bronchodilators, inhaled steroids, and combination inhalers.
- Dry powder inhalers (DPIs), which are handheld devices, but they deliver medication in a dry powder form. DPIs may be preferred by patients who have difficulty coordinating their breathing with the timing of the medication delivery.
- Nebulisers that deliver medication in a mist form that can be inhaled through a mouthpiece or mask. Nebulizers are often used for patients who have difficulty using inhalers, such as young children or elderly patients. They can deliver a variety of medications, including bronchodilators and inhaled steroids.
Oxygen therapy is a treatment option for chronic bronchitis if the blood oxygen level is low, which can occur in severe cases of the disease. Some examples of oxygen therapy include:
- Supplemental oxygen via nasal cannula, the most common method of delivering oxygen therapy. A small tube with prongs that fit into the nostrils is attached to an oxygen tank or concentrator, which delivers oxygen to the lungs.
- Supplemental oxygen via face mask can be used to deliver a higher concentration of oxygen than a nasal cannula. The mask is secured over the nose and mouth, and oxygen is delivered through the mask.
- Portable oxygen concentrators which are small and lightweight, and can be carried in a backpack or shoulder bag. They work by pulling in air from the environment and separating the oxygen from other gases, delivering a continuous flow of oxygen to the patient.
Pulmonary rehabilitation for chronic bronchitis
Pulmonary rehabilitation is a comprehensive program of exercise, breathing techniques, and education designed to improve lung function, manage symptoms, and enhance quality of life in people with chronic lung diseases, including chronic bronchitis. Here are some components of a typical pulmonary rehabilitation program:
- Exercise training, which may include both aerobic and strength training exercises, tailored to the individual’s needs and abilities. The goal is to improve fitness, endurance, and lung function.
- Breathing techniques that can help improve breathing efficiency, reduce shortness of breath, and manage symptoms. Examples include pursed-lip breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, and huff coughing.
- Education which includes information on the disease process, medications, nutrition, and lifestyle modifications. Patients may also receive training on how to manage exacerbations and avoid triggers.
- Psychological support, as chronic bronchitis can be a stressful and isolating condition, so pulmonary rehabilitation may include counselling or support groups to help patients cope.
What lifestyle changes can I adopt to aid my chronic bronchitis treatment?
In addition to medical treatments, there are several lifestyle changes that can help manage chronic bronchitis and improve quality of life. Here are some examples:
Smoking is the leading cause of chronic bronchitis, so quitting smoking is essential for managing the disease. Smoking cessation programs and support groups are available to help people quit.
Exposure to irritants such as air pollution, dust, and chemicals can worsen symptoms of chronic bronchitis. Avoiding these irritants whenever possible can help manage the disease.
Regular exercise can help improve lung function, endurance, and overall fitness. A healthcare provider can recommend safe exercises based on individual needs and abilities.
Maintain a healthy diet
A healthy diet can help support overall health and immunity, which can help prevent exacerbations of chronic bronchitis. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein is recommended.
Drinking plenty of fluids can help thin mucus secretions and make them easier to clear from the airways. Water, tea, and fruit juice are good choices.
Practise good hygiene
Washing hands regularly, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick can help prevent respiratory infections that can worsen chronic bronchitis.
What are the potential complications of chronic bronchitis?
If left untreated, chronic bronchitis can lead to other conditions, such as;
- Respiratory infections, such as pneumonia or acute bronchitis
- Respiratory failure
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Cor pulmonale (enlargement and weakening of the right side of the heart)
- Depression and anxiety
When should I seek treatment for chronic bronchitis?
If you have symptoms of chronic bronchitis, such as cough, chest tightness, and shortness of breath, that last for more than three months out of the year for two or more years, you should seek medical evaluation.
Chronic bronchitis is a progressive respiratory disease that can lead to serious complications if left untreated, so early detection and treatment are important.
You should also seek medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Worsening cough or shortness of breath
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Coughing up blood or yellow/green sputum
- Fever or chills
- Difficulty sleeping due to breathing difficulties
- Bluish tint to lips or nails
These symptoms may indicate an exacerbation of chronic bronchitis or a respiratory infection, which can require prompt medical treatment.
If you have a history of smoking or exposure to lung irritants, it is important to undergo regular lung function testing and follow-up with a healthcare provider to monitor your respiratory health.
Remember, early detection and treatment of chronic bronchitis can help prevent complications and improve quality of life.
How do I contact Manse Medical for chronic bronchitis treatment?
Manse Medical is a respiratory and sleep clinic with multiple locations. We aim to provide the highest level of care for patients with respiratory disorders.
Book your appointment online by selecting your preferred clinic and choosing from the list of available specialists.