The lungs are one of the most vital organs of the respiratory system, in the body, whose main function is respiration. This pair of respiratory organs is present in the chest cavity. As lungs are the quite sensitive to trauma, they are protected by the rib cage. Since the lungs are the most exposed organs to the atmosphere, as compared to other organs in the body, they tend to catch infections easily. Bronchitis is one such disorder which affects the lungs due to inhalation of contaminated air. The disease causing germs, like virus and bacteria, attack the bronchi (the passageway of the respiratory tract) of the lungs and cause inflammation.
What is Bronchitis
As mentioned earlier, bronchitis is an infection of the lungs, which can become worse if not treated on time. This condition is so named since it affects the bronchi (the main airways) of the lungs. These airways secrete mucus in order to trap the dust and germs to keep them from entering the body. In the absence of the mucus, these airways can get irritated. At times, the inner lining of the bronchi may get inflamed and swollen which triggers more production of mucus. When the air passage gets blocked with excess mucus, it tends to expel it from the body in the form of cough.
Sometimes, due to the presence of pathogens or some other factors like contaminated air, coming in contact with an infected person etc., the individual may suffer from bronchitis. There are two types of bronchitis - acute and chronic. Acute is caused by pathogens, namely bacteria or viruses. Hence they are sometimes also referred to as bacterial or viral bronchitis. It can affect individuals of any age group. On the other hand, smoking in one of the main causative factors of chronic bronchitis. This kind is mainly seen in people who smoke tobacco. The symptoms exhibited by both these disorders are almost similar.
Symptoms of Bronchitis
Though the signs and symptoms of this respiratory disorder may resemble ordinary cold and flu symptoms, they should never be ignored, lest they worsen and take a longer time to get cured. Acute and chronic bronchitis symptoms are almost the same. It is essential to diagnose these symptoms in the initial stages to prevent it from becoming chronic.
As we have seen earlier, acute bronchitis is caused due to the inflammation of the bronchi, due to the attack of disease-causing germs. Given below are some of the symptoms that can be observed in a person suffering from acute bronchitis.
- One of the primary signs is persistent dry cough, which may last for more than two weeks. The dry cough can also transform into productive cough, if you have bacterial infection.
- Wheezing, or shortness of breath can be observed as one of the signs as observed in children, especially in younger children. A peculiar sound can be heard when the child breathes, which becomes more audible when the child is sleeping.
- With the increase in infection, the color of the phlegm may change from white to becoming yellow or dark green. This change can be observed with 48 hours of contracting the infection.
- Discomfort in the chest, inability to breathe properly and low-grade fever accompanied by chills, can be seen in adults suffering from bronchitis. Some individuals may also experience generalized body weakness and moderate headache as a result of the infection.
- Pain below the breastbone, accompanied by a feeling of tightness in the chest region, which tend to radiate towards the rest of the body is also noticed in case of severity.
Chronic bronchitis mainly affects men when compared to women. The primary reason for this is due to smoking. Sometimes this can turn into lung cancer and result in death. Given below are some of the indications as seen in a patient who is a victim of this respiratory disorder.
- In case of chronic bronchitis, the individual may be more susceptible to cold or flu, have a runny nose and constant cough. The productive cough may worsen during cold weather conditions and also in the evenings when there is a drop in temperature.
- A condition known as cyanosis, where the lips and fingertips may turn bluish in color is also observed as one of the signs.
- The individual may also suffer from wheezing and breathlessness and a peculiar whistling sound can be heard while breathing.
- Some individuals may also experience fatigue, swelling of the limbs and unexplained weight gain. In the later stages, this disorder can also end up as a lung infection or a heart disease, which can be life-threatening and even prove fatal in some cases.
Treating the Signs of Bronchitis
Allowing bronchitis to become intense can prove to be harmful as it can turn into a life-threatening condition. So it is essential to treat this disorder in the initial stages in order to prevent it from becoming severe. Though it can also be treated in the later stages, it can take a long time for the condition to get cured completely. Before administering treatment, the doctor may conduct certain diagnostic tests like a chest X-ray, sputum culture and blood tests to check for the severity.
In case of acute bronchitis, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat bacterial infection. Expectorants may also be prescribed to provide relief from cough. In case of treatment for chronic bronchitis, the doctor may advice the patient to undergo pulmonary rehabilitation, where the patient is taught some breathing exercises, for an effortless breathing. There are also a few natural remedies which are quite effective in treating this respiratory disorder.
If you notice any of the above symptoms or similar to it, then consult a health care provider for prompt treatment. It is also important to know about the methods to avoid contracting bronchitis, as this disorder may lead to other serious health complications. Wish you good health and take care!