Chronic bronchitis is long-term swelling and the buildup of mucus in the airways of your lungs. The airways (bronchial tubes) get inflamed and make a lot of mucus. This can narrow or block the airways, making it hard for you to breathe. It is a form of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
Chronic bronchitis is usually caused by smoking. But chemical fumes, dust, or air pollution also can cause it over time.
Chronic bronchitis gets worse over time. You cannot undo the damage to your lungs.
Over time, you may find that:
Over many years, the swelling and mucus from chronic bronchitis make it more likely that you will get lung infections.
But there are things you can do to prevent more damage and feel better.
The main symptoms of chronic bronchitis are:
At times, your symptoms may suddenly flare up and get much worse. This is a called an exacerbation (say "egg-ZASS-er-BAY-shun"). When this happens, your usual symptoms quickly get worse and stay bad. This can be dangerous. You may have to go to the hospital.
Don't smoke. That is the best way to keep chronic bronchitis from getting worse. If you already smoke, it is never too late to stop. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
You can do other things to keep chronic bronchitis from getting worse:
Chronic bronchitis is treated with medicines and oxygen. You also can take steps at home to stay healthy and keep your condition from getting worse.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
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Current as of: May 12, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
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