Bronchitis is an inflammation of the small airways called bronchi (mucus membranes of bronchi, to be more specific). If not treated adequately it may spread further into the lungs causing pneumonia in some cases. However complications are rare in adults that are in good overall health.
The most common causes of bronchitis are infectious agents such are bacteria, viruses and fungi. Non-infectious causes, such as smoking, pollution, coldness, and allergens, are also common.
Acute and chronic form of bronchitis differ. Acute bronchitis can clear in seven to ten days, whilst a chronic bronchitis episode can last for months if untreated. Chronic bronchitis needs professional medical attention since it rarely resolves on its own.
Bronchitis symptoms fall into two categories: unspecific and organ-specific. Fatigue and fever are unspecific symptoms, which means they do not indicate a specific disease, but rather signal that something isn’t quite right.
Organ-specific symptoms include chest discomfort, cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing. When these occur, it means that the respiratory system is facing a health issue.
1 Chest discomfort
Patients usually refer to it as a “feeling pressure all over the chest.” It occurs due to the increased airflow resistance (narrow airways). Chest discomfort is a particularly unpleasant symptom which some patients misinterpret as a heart attack.
This symptom is often accompanied by wheezing which will be described later. Luckily, chest discomfort subsides in the first few days after the onset of acute bronchitis. In chronic patients, it rarely occurs at rest, however increased physical activity usually triggers the symptom.
Although unspecific, fatigue occurs days before other symptoms set in. With chronic bronchitis, it can last for weeks before other symptoms “show up.” It can sometimes be the only sign of chronic bronchitis.
Fatigue occurs due to inadequate tissue oxygenation. In other words, the body needs enough oxygen to produce sufficient amounts of energy. In the case of an impaired respiratory function, oxygen levels drop, and we feel exhausted. As soon as the respiratory function goes back to normal, fatigue slowly subsides, and the patient feels better.
More symptoms on next page….