Bronchitis Diagnosis and Management
Bronchitis is the inflammation and irritation of the airways that carry oxygen to the lungs. As a result of the swelling of airways, the passages carrying oxygen narrow down or constrict, thereby blocking the air flow to the lungs and making it harder to breathe.
Caused by a virus, acute bronchitis affects your throat, nose, and sinus and gradually spread to the airways, blocking air flow to lungs. The doctor may not order any test to detect a condition of acute bronchitis, as a narration of the bronchitis symptoms are enough to diagnose it. The doctor will use his stethoscope to listen to the sound in the upper airways of your lungs.
Acute bronchitis symptoms include:
- Cough that produces mucus
- Chest discomfort
- Difficulty breathing and the problem often worsens with activity
- Low grade fever
Most of the bronchitis symptoms are the same as that of pneumonia, with the only difference being that you are more likely to experience chills, shortness of breath or high fever and chills in pneumonia.
The condition is more commonly described as a mucus producing cough, which shows symptoms for more than 3 months in two years. Most often, chronic smoking is the leading cause of chronic bronchitis, though exposure to pollutants in welding, coal mining, and grain handling jobs also raises your risk of bronchitis.
To diagnose the problem of chronic bronchitis, your doctor will perform an X-ray of the chest to determine the extent of lung damage. They may require you to undergo pulmonary function tests in order to measure the functioning of your lungs.
- Regular coughing accompanies by large amounts of thick mucus
- Breathing problems caused by airway blockage by mucus, which creates a breeding atmosphere for viruses and bacteria
The condition often deteriorates to become chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) if left untreated. COPD can cause a severe lack of oxygen, resulting in blue lips and nail beds. People with chronic bronchitis are often affected by COPD and thus become prone to other lung infections, including pneumonia.
In order to diagnose chronic bronchitis, your doctor may perform pulmonary function tests to determine the functioning of your lungs. A chest X-ray may be required if other problems are suspected. Sputum samples may be examined to detect any infectious organisms in the lung airways.
If you smoke too often, you are at a high risk of suffering from chronic bronchitis. The best way to manage bronchitis is to quit smoking and also get vaccinated against pneumonia and influenza. Try to avoid passive smoke and air pollution to prevent the risk of worsening your bronchitis symptoms.
Often people suffering from acute bronchitis do not need antibiotics, as the symptoms go away within one week. The best way to manage the symptoms is to drink plenty of fluids and use steam in the bathroom.
If your condition does not improve and the doctor suspects presence of bacteria in your airways, they may prescribe antibiotics.