The term ‘bronchitis’ refers to inflammation of the lower airways and includes acute and chronic presentations. Acute bronchitis is usually a self-limiting, viral illness. Chronic bronchitis is diagnosed in the presence of long-term symptoms of cough and sputum production. It is one of the presentations of chronic obstructive airways disease (COPD).
This article explores the underlying pathophysiology that leads to acute and chronic bronchitis, offers pointers to assist the diagnosis and reviews current evidence for the management of these conditions.
By the end of this article the reader should be able to:
Acute bronchitis is a viral illness which causes inflammation of the lower airways. The most common symptom is cough, but other symptoms may include sputum production, cough-related chest pain, or wheezing. The most common causes of acute bronchitis are rhinovirus, with the symptoms presenting after a cold, enterovirus, influenza, coronavirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and adenovirus.1 As a viral illness, it is more common during the winter months.