Chronic Bronchitis — Overview of Causes, Symptoms, Diagnoses and Treatments

Written by: Lung Health
May 8, 2019

Chronic bronchitis refers to inflammation occurring in the passageways that carry air to the lungs, called the bronchial tubes. When this occurs, the lungs will begin to fill with excess mucus, causing a persistent cough. Doctors will typically consider bronchitis to be chronic when it has been present for 3 months a year for 2 consecutive years. 

How Your Quality of Life Can Be Affected by Chronic Bronchitis

One of the more common forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, chronic bronchitis affects millions of people every year. The persistent cough and restricted airflow can negatively impact nearly every aspect of everyday life, including sleep, relationships, work and hobbies. 

Whether you have been recently diagnosed with chronic bronchitis, are researching potential causes of your symptoms or any other reason, knowledge can be your greatest ally as you seek relief. With the following information in this helpful overview, you can take a more proactive role in your treatment to find the therapeutic options that are right for you. 

Causes and Risk Factors for Chronic Bronchitis

Like so many health conditions, particularly forms of COPD, smoking and chronic bronchitis go hand in hand. The irritants and carcinogens contained in cigarette smoke inflame the lungs, including the bronchial tubes. While younger smokers don’t always develop chronic bronchitis, this condition can become more and more common with age as years of cigarette smoking take their toll on the lungs. 

In addition to smoking, the following risk factors can contribute to the development of chronic bronchitis:

  • Exposure to work-related chemicals and fumes
  • Living in a city with low air quality
  • Repeated cases of severe heartburn
  • Presence of another condition that weakens the immune system, such as a cold or the flu

Ways to prevent chronic bronchitis include avoiding cigarette smoke, washing your hands, wearing a surgical mask and keeping up-to-date with your vaccinations. 

Chronic Bronchitis Symptoms

Symptoms for chronic bronchitis are generally the same as acute bronchitis, with the primary symptom being a persistent cough. The other main symptom is production of mucus that is typically colored white, yellow or green. 

Chronic bronchitis sufferers will also often report shortness of breath, chest pain due to constant coughing, low energy levels and possibly fever, chills and headaches. While there is no cure for chronic bronchitis, diagnosing and treating this condition at the earliest onset of symptoms can give you the best chance of managing it on a long-term basis.  

Diagnosing Chronic Bronchitis

To diagnose chronic bronchitis, a physician should perform a full physical evaluation, starting with a review of the patient’s medical history and a discussion of symptoms. He or she will also generally listen to breathing quality through a stethoscope to look for telltale signs of chronic bronchitis. 

To confirm diagnosis and/or rule out other conditions, the following tests can also be performed: 

  • A chest X-ray 
  • Mucus testing to look for signs of specific irritants, bacterial infection or allergens 
  • Breathing analysis to test for lung function
  • Blood analysis


Since other conditions, such as emphysema or pneumonia, may also be present alongside chronic bronchitis, it is important for physicians to be thorough during the diagnostic process.

Treatment Options for Chronic Bronchitis

Since so many chronic bronchitis sufferers are also smokers, the first treatment recommendation upon diagnosis is often to simply quit smoking. If this applies to you, work with your doctor to develop a smoking cessation plan that is right for your lifestyle. 

One of the main forms of symptom relief for chronic bronchitis is using a cough suppressant, especially if coughing and mucus are interfering with sleep. Other commonly recommended treatments include bronchodilators, oral steroids or steroid inhalers and respiratory therapy.

Today, a large number of chronic bronchitis patients are turning to treatments designed to increase your body’s natural ability to fight inflammation. At Lung Health Institute, we provide a range of treatment options that can help you find relief from chronic bronchitis and other forms of COPD, including: 

  • Cellular therapy — This state-of-the-art treatment uses your body’s own blood cells to assist in reducing inflammation and restoring natural lung functioning. 
  • Anti-Inflammatory Initiative™ (AI²™)  — We provide customized nutrition and lifestyle plans to help reduce inflammation and relieve the symptoms of conditions like chronic bronchitis. 


Take the next step to find relief. Contact one of our patient coordinators today for more information or to schedule a free consultation.

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Every day the Lung Health Institute is changing people’s lives. Our duty and obligation is to help our patients, and we know we are doing something special for them. We measure our success by our patients’ success and their satisfaction with our services and the care they receive from our dedicated staff.


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