Chronic Bronchitis: Signs & Symptoms

Chronic bronchitis is a very common lung condition that is classified under chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It affects more than 6.8 million Americans, with emergency room visits totaled to around 285,000 (CDC). If you are someone you know is suffering from this debilitating disease, you may find this article useful, in helping you understand your disease.




Bronchitis occurs when the respiratory epithelium (lining of the bronchial tubes) becomes inflamed, along with the airway passages that connect the trachea and the lungs. The epithelium produces mucus, which offers protection and a living over the respiratory tract.

The epithelium becomes so inflamed and irritated that air cannot pass from the oral and nasal cavities to the lungs or from the lungs out the nasal and oral cavities. An overproduction of mucus will occur, until a cough is initiated.

When exposed to an over-abundance of dust and pollen, the nasal hairs will be unable to prevent some from escaping into the respiratory tract. The mucus membrane is lined with cilia (hair like structures) that are constantly moving in a waving motion to assist in the removal of mucus. Over time these become damaged and they are unable to perform this very important duty.

While acute bronchitis is normally caused by a virus and will only last up to two weeks, unlike chronic bronchitis, which can potentially last several months up to many years. In this case, the bronchial tubes are always inflamed and irritated, with the overproduction of mucus.



The most common cause of bronchitis is smoking and secondary smoke inhalation. It is not uncommon for an individual to be experience rhinopharyngitis or coryza (common cold).

Extensive exposure to chemical fumes and toxic gases

Extensive exposure air pollutants, dust



Many victims that work in an environment that requires a certain amount of exposure to substances that cause irritation to the lungs for many, many years will be at a higher risk to developing COPD, at some point in their life.


Signs & Symptoms



Dyspnea (shortness of breath)

Chest discomfort (tightness, heaviness)

Low-grade fever


Clear, white, green, or yellowish-gray sputum or mucus


Smoking cessation is definitely a must, in order for treatment to be effective. If you need assistant, you should consider using nicotine patches or gum to suffice your nicotine cravings.





Cough Suppressants

Respiratory Inhalant Therapy




The diagnosis process will begin with a thorough physical exam including auscultation of the lungs. The physician will be listening for wheezes, crackles (wet), rhonchi (low-pitched wheezes), and pleural rubs (creaking and grating noises).

Chest X-Ray

Sputum & Culture

Pulmonary Function Test




Pneumonia is a huge and very common complication of bronchitis. It is vital that you seek medical attention on onset of symptoms.

To find out more about the lung anatomy, be sure to click here.