The Knowledge Center

Chronic bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis can be a part of COPD

Chronic bronchitis is long-term inflammation of the lungs. Chronic bronchitis causes coughing (with phlegm or mucus) that you have every day. Chronic bronchitis is treatable.

With chronic bronchitis, inflammation can cause the muscles around your lungs to tighten up and narrow your airways. This can limit airflow in and out of your lungs, making it hard to breathe. You might believe you have a cold that won't go away. But it could be due to damaged airways that limit airflow in and out of your lungs. Unlike the bronchitis you may experience with a common cold or other virus, chronic bronchitis can come and go over months or years.

The airways in the lungs resemble the branches of a tree. Central airways are larger in size and branch out several times into smaller airways that reach across the width of the lung.

Chronic bronchitis can be associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). While chronic bronchitis of the larger airways is often caused by respiratory infections, COPD is caused by inflammation in very small airways and can lead to airflow obstruction.

COPD progression may be affected by:

  • The severity of inflammation in the small airway walls
  • The extent of narrowing of airway space
  • The amount of mucus

Quitting smoking is the only thing that can slow the progression of COPD.

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