The causes of bronchitis vary, but the most common cause-at least for chronic bronchitis-is cigarette smoking or cigarette smoke. Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a viral infection, like the ones that cause colds or flu. Other causes of bronchitis include environmental irritants, such as dust.
Chronic bronchitis is an inflammation and thickening of the lining of the bronchial tubes. The bronchial tubes, or bronchi, connect the windpipe to the lungs, transporting oxygen into the body and carbon dioxide out of it.
In bronchitis, the bronchial tubes constrict enough to restrict the flow of air, so patients become short of breath. At the same time, the inflammation causes glands in the bronchial tubes to produce excess mucus, which can cause lung congestion and further impede breathing. People with chronic bronchitis often have coughing spells.
Chronic bronchitis can persist for months and frequently recurs. It may even become permanent. Good treatments exist for bronchitis, but lung scarring from bronchial mucus may eventually impede breathing.
To help prevent chronic bronchitis, avoid cigarette smoke. Air pollution, dust and smog also play roles in bronchitis.
Swelling and irritation in the bronchial tubes are the symptoms of acute bronchitis. Usually a virus causes acute bronchitis, but a bacteria, yeast or fungus may also be responsible. People who smoke are more prone to acute bronchitis, just as they are more prone to colds and other infections.
Acute bronchitis can also affect people who inhale dust or chemicals, or who suffer from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
Virtually everyone has had acute bronchitis, just as everyone has had a cold. In general, the problem clears up quickly in healthy people, though the cough may persist.
Dust pneumonia is real. Dust can cause bronchitis, as well. Human air passages are not designed to handle large amounts of clogging dust.
Fumes from acids, ammonia, organic solvents and gases-like chlorine, hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide and bromine-can also cause irritative bronchitis.
Not all bronchitis can be avoided. However, people who avoid inhaling smoke and other irritants will almost certainly avoid the chronic form. People who take good care of their health usually recover completely from bronchitis.