What is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is the acute or chronic inflammation of the mucosa of the bronchial tree (complex of ducts that allows the exchange of air between the lungs and the external environment).
Often, in acute bronchitis the inflammatory process is the result of an extension to the bronchi of infections of the upper respiratory tract (tracheo-bronchitis, laringo-tracheo-bronchitis); more rarely, non-specific factors occur (inhalation of irritating substances such as strong acid fumes, ammonia and some organic solvents).
Causes and Symptoms
To learn more: Symptoms Bronchitis
Infectious acute bronchitis is generally supported by virosis (influenza viruses, respiratory syncytial virus, adenovirus, etc.), to which bacterial infections ( Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus Pneumoniae, Moraxella catarrhalis ) may overlap. Influenza viruses, in fact, destroy the cells of the respiratory mucosa, favoring the penetration and engraftment of bacteria; the consequent superinfection complicates the course of the disease, which initially gives modest symptoms (low grade fever, muscle pains, colds, pharyngitis, dry cough) and then worsens with the worsening of the general symptoms (appearance of fat cough associated with abundant mucous or mucopurulent catarrh, meaning of chest constriction and retrosternal burning).
It uses the physical examination (search for the symptoms listed above, auscultation with a stethoscope), blood tests (neutrophilic leukocytosis, serological research of specific antibodies against certain viruses), sputum culture (pathogen research in phlegm) and possibly chest radiography and pulmonary ventilation tests (spirometry).
Acute bronchitis is generally a self-limiting disease that disappears within a few days; however, especially in the case of bacterial superinfection, it must be readily recognized and treated to avoid complications (if neglected, the transition to bronchopneumonia is frequent). The therapy includes absolute rest until there is fever, generous hydration, possible administration of analgesics, antipyretics (if the fever is high) and antibiotics (if the bronchitis is supported by a bacterial infection, see the deepening: Antibiotic for Bronchitis) . In the most serious cases, it may be necessary to use bronchodilator and antitussive drugs (remember that cough, in itself, is a defense mechanism useful for expelling the mucus that clogs the respiratory tract).
We speak of chronic bronchitis in the presence of a persistent increase in bronchial secretions, with productive cough (phlegm) almost daily for at least three months a year for two consecutive years (see COPD: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
Signs and symptoms include continuous cough that produces mucus in more or less important amounts, especially in the morning, and dyspnea (difficulty breathing, lack of breath even during small efforts).
In chronic bronchitis, the infection, bacterial or viral, is only a complication, as environmental factors are far more important, first of all smoking (including passive smoking) and pollution, whether environmental, domestic and / or work.