Chronic bronchitis / Chronic obstructive bronchitis – continuous coughing with consequences
Chronic bronchitis is a long-term disease of the respiratory tract. Coughing does not stop when the patient recovers from a common cold or after the usual two-week period. Typical symptoms include frequent coughing with whitish, sticky mucus, which is expelled in large quantities, especially in the morning.
The primary cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking. But bacteria (Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae) can also cause chronic bronchitis. The same holds true if the airways are exposed to dust, gases and vapours for extended periods of time, as is the case for some workers. With chronic bronchitis, the mucous membranes of the bronchi thicken.
More secretion – i.e. mucus – is formed. In producing this mucus, the body is trying to counteract the contamination (by cigarette smoke, bacteria or dust) and to rid itself of the intruders. At the same time, however, continuous irritation disables the cilia (microscopic hairs) which are supposed to carry away the mucus. Over the long term, they are completely destroyed.
The bronchi are now permanently inflamed. This has devastating consequences: the wall of the bronchi becomes thin and unstable. If strong exhalation occurs, the bronchi collapse. This renders breathing difficult. The case of chronic bronchitis has now become a case of chronic obstructive bronchitis (COPD).