Is there a difference between bronchitis and asthma?

Bronchitis and asthma are considered as inflammatory airway diseases in which the interior airways that are deep in the lungs ends up inflamed which causes difficulty in breathing.

Asthma is a chronic condition that is characterized by recurrent constriction of the airways. As for bronchitis, it can be acute which lasts for one to a number of weeks or can also be chronic. Bronchitis is the aggravation of the mucous membranes that lines the airways. Even though there are certain similarities between the two conditions, they are different and have distinct treatment tactics.

Difference between bronchitis and asthma

When it comes to acute bronchitis, it is an infection affecting the lining of the bronchial passages that is accompanied by cough that usually lasts for several weeks. The condition is usually triggered by a viral infection. The lining of the airways returns to normal after the infection clears up. As for chronic bronchitis, it is a serious condition that affects those who smoke or have long-term contact to air pollutants. Bacterial infections are quite prevalent in chronic bronchitis which contributes to a higher risk of flare-ups.

Bronchitis and asthma

Those who have asthma often suffer chest tightness, wheezing and shortness of breath during an attack.

Asthma is considered as a chronic disease that causes inflammation and swelling in the inferior airways. Those who have asthma tend to suffer recurrent episodes of airway obstruction which are reversible either spontaneously or with the help of medications. In most cases, asthma is diagnosed in childhood or early adulthood.

What are the indications?

The symptoms of bronchitis and asthma both acute and chronic are quite similar but there are usual distinctions that can be noted. Those who have asthma often suffer chest tightness, wheezing and shortness of breath during an attack. As for acute bronchitis, it causes hacking cough with or without phlegm. Chronic cases of bronchitis are linked with persistent, phlegm-producing cough and wheezing.

These indications are also seen in common cold or other upper airway infections, thus they are not specific enough to come up with a diagnosis. Both chronic bronchitis and asthma are branded by serious flare-ups once the symptoms become aggravated and can be even life-threatening. Medical care is required if the symptoms are progressing or not responding to medications.

Diagnosing the condition

Acute bronchitis is diagnosed by the abrupt onset of cough that is not triggered by common cold, asthma or serious respiratory diseases such as whooping cough or pneumonia. A diagnosis is usually based on the medical history, description of the symptoms and a physical exam. In case pneumonia is a concern, a chest X-ray might be requested.

Chronic case of bronchitis involves phlegm-producing cough that lasts at least 3 months for 2 consecutive years. Aside from the physical exam and history, other tests used to come up with a diagnosis include a pulmonary function test to check the flow of air in the lungs and a chest X-ray.

As for asthma, it is a complicated diagnosis that entails tests to check for airway obstruction and the capacity to exhale under various test conditions. If you want to learn more about these conditions, click here.


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