Bronchitis and asthma are inflammatory airway diseases involving inflammation of the interior airways in the lungs ends. In most cases, both causes difficulty in breathing.
Asthma is a chronic condition that causes 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. A viral infection typically triggers the condition. The lining of the airways returns to normal after the infection clears up. As for the chronic form, 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.
Asthma is 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, the doctor diagnoses asthma 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. Those who have asthma often suffer chest tightness, wheezing and shortness of breath during an attack. As for the acute type, it causes hacking cough with or without phlegm. Furthermore, chronic cases have a link with persistent, phlegm-producing cough and wheezing.
These indications are also present 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
Generally, 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, the doctor will request a chest X-ray.
Chronic case 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.