Also commonly known as bronchitis, bronchial infection is actually an infection of the mucous membranes that line the inner walls of the bronchi (the pipe-like structures that transport air to the lungs from the trachea). An infection of the bronchial region of the respiratory system can be acute as well as chronic. Acute bronchitis symptoms include severe coughing which may or may not be accompanied by increased production of sputum. Acute bronchitis usually accompanies common cold or influenza, and experiencing cough and mild congestion is common in case of these viral infection. Chronic infection of the bronchi is characterized by a chronic case of productive cough which may last for as long as three months each year for a minimum of two years. Let's take a closer look at both types of bronchitis.
As mentioned above, acute bronchitis is a short-term infection and usually occurs as an accompaniment of any other upper respiratory viral infections such as cold and flu.
The major cause of acute bronchitis is viruses, though a mere 10% of the cases may be brought on by bacteria as well. The virus that causes acute bronchitis infect the epithelium, leading to inflammation of the mucous membrane and increase in the production of mucus.
Cough, the most prominent among all acute bronchitis symptoms, is the body's attempt to expel the additional mucus from the lungs to avoid blockage of the air passage. Besides cough and excess sputum, other acute bronchitis symptoms include nasal congestion and runny nose, sore throat, malaise, slight fever and a certain degree of inflammation of the pleura that surrounds the lungs.
Antibiotics for bronchial infection usually have no effect as most of the time the bronchitis is viral in nature. In fact, antibiotics can have an adverse effect as administration of antibiotic medication in case of non bacterial bronchitis encourages the growth and propagation of bacteria which are antibiotic resistant. Expectorants are given to help expel the excess mucus and decongestant medications are administered to relieve nasal and bronchial congestion. Cough suppressants may be given to ease coughing and fever and sore throat may be treated by giving non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also known as NSAIDs.
As mentioned above, chronic bronchitis is a long-term ailment of the respiratory tract and is characterized by development of productive cough which occurs for at least three months in a row each year for at least a couple of years.
This condition is generally brought on by frequent injuries to the bronchial epithelium. This leads to chronic swelling of the mucous membrane and causes goblet cells to increase their mucin production which leads to the increased production of mucus when the mucin dissolves in water. Usually, such injury to the bronchial epithelium is caused by smoking or chewing tobacco.
Chronic bronchitis effects manifest in the form of considerable obstruction of the airway and this leads to the common symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath and having difficulty breathing. The sputum produced in chronic bronchitis is thicker with a greenish-yellow hue and may have streaks of blood in it.
In case of chronic bronchitis, the treatment may include corticosteroid inhalers for bronchitis to arrest inflammation of the epithelium. Bronchodilators are used to arrest bronchospasms in order to provide relief from wheezing and shortness of breath. Due to difficulty in breathing, the blood oxygen levels may go down considerably and this condition can be corrected by providing external oxygen supplements. However, I would like to extend a word of warning with regards to oxygen supplementation for treating chronic bronchitis - long-term oxygen supplementation as a chronic bronchitis treatment measure may reduce respiratory drive, resulting in the increase of carbon dioxide levels in the blood. Natural remedies such as turmeric, chicken soup, eucalyptus oil, ginger, honey and lemon, can also be considered as additional options for treatment of chronic bronchitis as they provide some much-needed relief to the already strained bronchi.
The treatment for both types of bronchitis include symptomatic treatment methods that aim at providing symptomatic relief to the patient. Most of the time, acute bronchitis conditions are of a self-limiting nature and get resolved by themselves even in the absence of medical intervention. Chronic bronchitis, however, requires regular treatment and calls for abstinence from indulging in causative factors (smoking, chewing tobacco, etc.) over and beyond the treatment period for effective relief from its various symptoms. That, I guess, should give you an aerial view of the entire scope - particulars, causes, symptoms and treatment - of bronchitis. Prevention is always better than cure and the best way to prevent chronic bronchitis is to avoid tobacco - in whichever form - at all costs. As far as acute bronchitis goes, a robust immune system is your best defense against it - you see, most of the time it is caused by a viral pathogen and we all know by now that the body's immune system is the greatest and only nemesis of viruses.