Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes. These tubes connect the windpipe to the lungs.
When these tubes are inflamed or infected, they allow less air to flow into and out of the lungs. A heavy mucus or phlegm is also coughed up. Many people have these symptoms when they have a severe cold, but acute or chronic bronchitis is usually not associated with fever.
If someone has a mucus-producing cough most days of the month fore three months of the year for at least two successive years, they are suspected of having chronic bronchitis, if there is no explanation for the presence of the cough. This condition may precede or accompany pulmonary emphysema.
Cigarette smoking is by far the most common cause of chronic bronchitis. Air pollution and industrial dusts are also possible causes.
Written by Prof J.R. Joubert, MSc, MBChB (Stell), FCP (SA), MMed (Int. Med), MD (Stell).