The term "bronchitis" is derived from two Greek words "bronchos" and "itis," which means "windpipe" and "inflammation," respectively. True to its name, bronchitis is a respiratory disorder characterized by inflammation of the windpipe and the large and small bronchi due to bacterial or viral infection or factors such as environmental pollution or cigarette smoking.
Chronic bronchitis is the more lethal of the two types of bronchitis, that is, acute and chronic bronchitis. While acute bronchitis lasts for a short time and is chiefly caused by bacterial or viral infection, chronic bronchitis lasts much longer. It is also considered to be one of the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a group of respiratory diseases commonly characterized by abnormal breathing patterns.
Recognizing Chronic Bronchitis
If the patient coughs and expels sputum for about three months in a year for two consecutive years, the patient may be suffering from chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is also characterized by excessive production of mucus, cough, and dysnea, or difficulties in breathing while exerting itself physically.
Chronic bronchitis is accompanied by abnormal signs in the lungs, edema of the feet, coronary failure, and a bluish tinge on the skin and around the lips. The symptoms disappear with the passage of time and are usually followed by the development of abnormal breathing patterns.
Dyspnea, characterized by labored breathing, interferes a lot with the sufferers' daily routine. It turns out that breathing takes up all of a person's energy. Subsequently, the patients loses a lot of weight because even the normal process of eating involves a major expenditure of energy.
Due to dyspnea, even the slightest exertion will be exhausting for the person. As chronic bronchitis progresses, patients experience difficulties in breathing even when they are taking rest. At this stage, patients become more susceptible to infections of all types and to respiratory insufficiencies, which pave the way for the terminal event of chronic bronchitis, acute respiratory failure.
These symptoms may be similar to the symptoms of other respiratory disorders, which is why patients must never try to diagnose the condition on their own. Consulting a doctor is of utmost importance. It is possible to mistake chronic bronchitis for other respiratory disorders such as asthma, sinusitis, tuberculosis, pulmonary emphysema, and so on.
Various Medical Tests to Diagnose Chronic Bronchitis
Physicians conduct a number of tests to facilitate correct diagnosis of a respiratory condition. Some of the tests and examinations are:
Pulmonary function tests are done to calculate the capacity of the lungs to exchange oxygen for carbon-di-oxide. In order to conduct pulmonary function tests, doctors use peak flow monitoring (PFM) and spirometry. Spirometry is a medical tool used to determine and understand the working of the lungs while PFM is used to determine the maximum speed with which a person can exhale or inhale. PFM also assesses the ways in which the malady can be controlled.
Pulse oximetry is a small apparatus that measures the oxygen content in the blood.
Chest x-rays are a common diagnostic tool to view pictures of the internal conditions of organs, tissues, and bones.
Arterial Blood Gas (ABG) is the name of a blood test to ascertain the capacity of the lungs to supply oxygen to the body and to eliminate carbon-di-oxide from it. In addition, it helps measure the acid content of the blood.
Computed Tomography or CT Scan is a medical technique that combines x-ray and computer technology to obtain a comprehensive image of different parts of the human body.
Chronic bronchitis usually lasts through life, and treatment is taken only to alleviate its distressing symptoms. In spite of this, the patient can live a comfortable, productive life by properly managing the symptoms of this disease. The disorder, though incurable, is controllable.