What is Asthmatic Bronchitis?

Mary McMahon

Asthmatic bronchitis is a pulmonary condition characterized by chronic airway obstruction, even with treatment for airway inflammation and discomfort. It combines elements of both asthma and bronchitis, and is very common in many populations. Treatment can be provided by a primary care provider or a respiratory specialist, depending on the patient and the severity of the condition. It is important to receive treatment, because chronic irritation of the airway can have serious long-term consequences.

Individuals suffering from asthmatic bronchitis may experience an overproduction of mucus from the bronchial passages, which then enters the lungs.
Individuals suffering from asthmatic bronchitis may experience an overproduction of mucus from the bronchial passages, which then enters the lungs.

In people with asthmatic bronchitis, the bronchial passages are inflamed and overproduction of mucus occurs, limiting the amount of air that can pass through. The mucus also enters the lungs, causing discomfort and irritation. At the same time, the bands of tissue around the airways tighten with asthma, narrowing the breathing passages. This combination of attacks on the airway can make it difficult for people to breathe, and treating one problem alone will not resolve the issue.

People can develop asthmatic bronchitis as a result of chronic bronchitis, with the airways being irritated so many times over time that chronic inflammation develops, or as a complication of asthma. People with poorly managed asthma can be at increased risk of developing bronchitis. Frequent infections and exposure to allergens can both increase the risks of asthmatic bronchitis. Symptoms of asthmatic bronchitis include shortness of breath, a dry cough, wheezing, and pain in the chest.

When a patient presents with these symptoms, the doctor will take the patient's history and listen to the patient's lungs for tell-tale signs of mucus buildup and wheezing caused by narrowed airways. Diagnostic testing may be recommended, or the doctor may move directly to offering treatment options. Choices for treatment include anti-inflammatory drugs to bring down the irritation and swelling, long-term medications for asthma management, and antibiotic drugs to kill any infectious organisms that might be contributing to the irritation of the airways.

Some patients also find it helpful to learn breathing exercises and to make lifestyle changes that will limit exposure to allergens and irritants. It's important to wear airway protection when working in dusty environments or other locations where people might potentially inhale things that are harmful, for example. In addition, sometimes cutting down on dairy products and certain other foods can lower mucus production. Management of this condition is accomplished on a patient-by-patient basis because people can respond variably to treatment and patients will usually need to attend routine followups to confirm that their course of treatment is working.

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