Acute bronchitis is a disease of the lower respiratory tract in the lungs. It is often caused by a viral infection, such as a upper respiratory infection or influenza that settles in the lungs. It can also be caused by a bacterial infection. Both of these infections result in inflammation of the airways of the lungs called the bronchi and the bronchioles.
Infection and inflammation of the bronchi and the bronchioles leads to symptoms that can include a wet cough that produces white or yellow phlegm, shortness of breath, and fever. Complications of acute bronchitis, such as pneumonia can be serious, even life threatening, and result in additional symptoms. For more details on symptoms, refer to symptoms of acute bronchitis.
Acute bronchitis is a common disease that can occur at any time of the year, but most cases happen in the winter months. It is most common in infants and young children and the elderly. People at risk for developing acute bronchitis include smokers and people who are exposed to air pollution or lung irritants. Other people at risk include those who have diseases of the lungs, such as lung cancer, congestive heart failure, or emphysema.
Making a diagnosis of acute bronchitis begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms, smoking history, and exposure to lung irritants. A physical examination is also performed and includes listening with a stethoscope to the sounds that lungs make during respiration. Lung sounds that may point to a diagnosis of acute bronchitis include a bubbling, wheezing, or crackling sound and decreased lung sounds.
Diagnostic testing can include lung function tests, such as a spirometry, which measures how much air is moved in and out of the lungs. A chest X-ray and CT scan of the chest can help to evaluate such factors as the presence of other lung conditions, including COPD, pneumonia and congestive heart failure.
A sample of phlegm that is coughed up may be tested for the presence of bacteria or other pathogens. For people who have a severe case of acute bronchitis, an arterial blood gas test may be done. Is this test a sample of blood taken from an artery is measured for many parameters of effective breathing, including the oxygen level in the blood.
It is possible that a diagnosis of acute bronchitis can be missed or delayed because symptoms may be mild or possibly attributed to other conditions. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of acute bronchitis.
The treatment for acute bronchitis involves a multifaceted approach. Treatment plans vary depending on the cause, (bacterial or viral) the severity of the symptoms, the presence of complications, and an individual's medical history. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of acute bronchitis....more »