Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Chronic Bronchitis Underlying Cause

Chronic bronchitis occurs when the lungs are constantly exposed to an irritant in the air. This long-standing exposure causes the airways to swell and produce mucus, leading to the symptoms of bronchitis. Smoking is the most common irritant that causes chronic bronchitis.

Smoking destroys the cells that line the bronchial tubes. It interferes with the immune system's ability to fight infection. Smokers also have difficulty getting rid of mucus from their lungs. This makes bacterial lung infections more likely. Eventually, smoking destroys lung tissue.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, occurs when smoke or irritants cause permanent damage to the airways. This causes an obstruction to air entering (during inhalation) and leaving (during exhalation) the lungs. Chronic bronchitis is usually present in those who have COPD.

Other irritants that cause chronic bronchitis include:

Additional illnesses that cause chronic bronchitis include:

Continue to Chronic Bronchitis Anatomy

Last Updated: Jan 27, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Chronic Bronchitis References
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  2. Martinez FJ, Anzueto A. Appropriate outpatient treatment of acute bacterial exacerbations of chronic bronchitis. Am J Med. 2005 Jul;118(Suppl 7A):39S-44S. [15993676]
  3. Panpanich R, Lerttrakarnnon P, Laopaiboon M. Azithromycin for acute lower respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004 Oct 18;(4):CD001954. [15497172]
  4. Schmier JK, Halpern MT, Higashi MK, Bakst A. The quality of life impact of acute exacerbations of chronic bronchitis (AECB): a literature review. Qual Life Res. 2005 Mar;14(2):329-47. [1589242]
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