Acute exacerbations of chronic bronchitis refer to the sudden worsening of the symptoms of chronic bronchitis. It is usually triggered by certain factors, including lung irritants, smoking, and bacterial or viral infections.
Acute exacerbations of chronic bronchitis (AECB) is a condition characterized by an increase in the frequency and severity of the symptoms of chronic bronchitis. Bronchitis is caused by the inflammation of the bronchi or air passages of the lungs. The condition causes the production of excess mucus that blocks the airways, and causes shortness of breath and cough.
If cough and the resulting phlegm and mucus are present continuously for at least three months in a year for two consecutive years, then it is termed as chronic bronchitis, which is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In the case of AECB, people experience more difficulty in breathing due to further constriction of the airways caused by the inflammation and swelling of the air passages, and the production of thick mucus.
AECB can be caused by an exposure to irritants like pollen, cigarette smoke, and other pollutants. Sometimes, toxic chemicals can also cause an aggravation of the symptoms of chronic bronchitis. In bronchitis, excess mucus is produced in the airways, which creates a favorable environment for the growth of bacteria and viruses. Therefore, bacterial and viral infections can also lead to AECB.
AECB aggravates the symptoms associated with chronic bronchitis like cough and chest congestion. Sometimes, shortness of breath and wheezing, (a whistling sound produced during breathing due to the congestion of the air passages) may be noticed. If a bacterial infection is the cause of AECB, then the mucus is usually thicker than usual and is greenish or yellow in color. Sometimes, blood can also be observed in the mucus. Bacterial or viral infections can also cause fever and an increase in the volume of sputum.
Diagnosis and Treatment
AECB is usually diagnosed by observing the severity of the symptoms of chronic bronchitis like, an increase in coughing and the volume of sputum, and shortness of breath. Physicians also examine a sample of sputum to ensure the proper diagnosis of the disease. The presence of blood in sputum and fever may require a chest X-ray to detect if pneumonia is the underlying cause of the disease.
AECB is usually treated with antibiotics, cough suppressants, oxygen therapy, corticosteroids, and bronchodilators. Antibiotics are used if it is suspected to be caused by bacterial infections, while corticosteroids are used to reduce the inflammation of the air passages. Bronchodilators are effective in opening up the airways of the lungs.
On the other hand, oxygen therapy is usually recommended when the level of oxygen in the blood drops to a significant level. To relieve the severe coughing associated with AECB, cough suppressants are used. In addition to these, methylxanthines are used to open up the air passages, and inhibit the release of chemicals, which can be responsible for narrowing the airways.
Along with taking the appropriate medications, it is also important to keep the triggering factors or the possible causes of the condition under control, in order to reduce the frequency and occurrence of AECB. Therefore, individuals with chronic bronchitis should avoid common lung irritants like smoke and pollen.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.