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What is the Connection Between Asthma and Bronchitis?

Asthma and bronchitis both affect the lungs, causing inflammation and narrowing of airways, which leads to breathing difficulties. While asthma is a chronic condition, bronchitis can be acute or chronic, often triggered by infections or exposure to irritants. Understanding their link is crucial for effective management. Curious about how these conditions intersect and impact your health? Let's explore this further.
Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee

Asthma and bronchitis are considered two distinct diseases of the lung, but they are connected. Asthma is an hereditary condition that causes the bronchi, or breathing passages that lead from the trachea to the lungs, to become inflamed. People with asthma can sometimes experience asthma attacks, during which the bronchi become inflamed and constricted. Bronchitis, on the other hand, is not an hereditary condition, but can be caused by infection or by environmental irritants. Bronchitis can make asthma symptoms worse, and people with asthma may be at an increased risk of developing bronchitis.

Asthma is a relatively common lung disease that is normally passed genetically from parents to their children. Asthma symptoms may begin very early in life, or they may not appear until late adulthood. Some experts think that other factors, such as viral infection or environmental pollutants, can contribute to the development of asthma in those already genetically predisposed to the condition.

An asthma inhaler.
An asthma inhaler.

Asthma typically causes swelling and inflammation in the bronchi of the lungs. Often, asthma can cause the muscles around the lungs to spasm, making breathing even more difficult during an attack of the illness. Asthma also generally causes increased fluid accumulation in the lungs, and increased phlegm production. Allergies, exercise, sinus problems, and heartburn can all contribute to the onset of asthma symptoms.

Asthma and bronchitis are considered inextricably linked. Asthma sufferers generally experience an increased risk of bronchitis. Bronchitis infection also can kick-start asthma symptoms in those who suffer from this chronic condition.

An illustration of the pathology of asthma.
An illustration of the pathology of asthma.

Bronchitis generally causes inflammation of the bronchial tubes in the lungs. Bronchitis usually causes symptoms similar to those of asthma, such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and increased phlegm production. The irritation caused by bronchitis can trigger asthma symptoms. Because asthma can leave the breathing passages of the lungs chronically inflamed, it can contribute to the development of chronic bronchitis, especially when environmental irritants are present.

Asthma causes the bronchi, which lead from the trachea to the lung, to become inflamed.
Asthma causes the bronchi, which lead from the trachea to the lung, to become inflamed.

Bronchitis often occurs due to bacterial or viral infection. Especially in the case of viral bronchitis infection, asthma and bronchitis in the same patient can cause a condition known as chronic asthmatic bronchitis. This condition usually requires long-term symptom management.

Persons with asthma are often urged to take preventative measures against bronchitis, since asthma and bronchitis combined can be so dangerous. Asthma patients are generally advised to stay current on influenza and pneumonia vaccines, and to avoid smoking cigarettes. They are also usually encouraged to avoid second-hand smoke. Environmental irritants, including dust, pollen, mold, or airborne chemicals can also contribute to the simultaneous development of asthma and bronchitis.

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Discussion Comments

turquoise

My doctor says that asthma can sometimes have a psychological trigger. In some people, asthma attacks may be triggered by allergies or pollution, in others, it may be worry or fear that triggers it. I think that the link between asthma and bronchitis is probably weaker if the asthma is partly psychological.

Bronchitis on the other hand, can't be triggered psychologically. There has to be an environmental factor -- an infection, exposure to extreme cold, etc.

SteamLouis

@serenesurface-- Actually, if you read the article carefully, it is mentioned that it can go both ways. Asthma can cause bronchitis and bronchitis can cause asthma.

I'm not a doctor, but from the description of both of these disorders, there are only a few differences. Asthma also involves muscle spasms which don't really occur in bronchitis, but both conditions cause inflammation of the airways.

So it's natural that one could lead to the other. It's not surprising that your aunt developed asthma from a serious case of bronchitis. It happens more often than people realize. These conditions do after all affect the same organs and functions.

serenesurface

Okay, so asthma causes bronchitis, not the other way around?! I always thought that both could lead to one another. I also remember that my aunt had suffered from temporary asthma after a very serious respiratory infection that led to bronchitis. But it sounds like from this article that it's usually the other way around.

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    • An asthma inhaler.
      By: alctxphoto
      An asthma inhaler.
    • An illustration of the pathology of asthma.
      By: Alila
      An illustration of the pathology of asthma.
    • Asthma causes the bronchi, which lead from the trachea to the lung, to become inflamed.
      By: arsdigital
      Asthma causes the bronchi, which lead from the trachea to the lung, to become inflamed.
    • Chronic bronchitis can be caused by cigarette smoke.
      By: nito
      Chronic bronchitis can be caused by cigarette smoke.
    • Inhalers can be used to treat both asthma and bronchitis.
      By: perfectmatch
      Inhalers can be used to treat both asthma and bronchitis.
    • It is not uncommon for asthma sufferers to also fall victim to certain allergies.
      By: robyelo357
      It is not uncommon for asthma sufferers to also fall victim to certain allergies.
    • Bronchitis generally causes inflammation of the bronchial tubes in the lungs.
      By: ISO K° - photography
      Bronchitis generally causes inflammation of the bronchial tubes in the lungs.
    • Asthma generally causes an increased phlegm production.
      By: Halfpoint
      Asthma generally causes an increased phlegm production.
    • Breathing treatments may be needed in severe cases of asthma and bronchitis.
      By: bnmk0819
      Breathing treatments may be needed in severe cases of asthma and bronchitis.
    • Bronchitis can be caused by infection or environmental irritants.
      By: rob3000
      Bronchitis can be caused by infection or environmental irritants.