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Bronchitis vs Bronchiectasis: What's the Difference?

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Mar 30, 2023

Bronchitis vs Bronchiectasis: What's the Difference?

Bronchiectasis and bronchitis are both conditions associated with the lungs. While both are lung infections, they are different in a number of ways. Read on to learn all about bronchitis vs bronchiectasis.

What is Bronchiectasis?

Bronchiectasis is a lung condition that occurs when the bronchial tubes of your lungs are enlarged permanently. The condition makes the airways permanently broadened and inflamed. This causes the excess production and accumulation of mucus in the lungs.

This condition makes you more prone to infection and causes difficulty in breathing. Though there is no cure for the condition, proper treatment and healthy lifestyle can help manage it. Even if you have minor symptoms, it is important to treat as soon as possible to avoid further complications.

What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis, on the other hand, is a lung condition wherein the main airways of the lungs called bronchi become inflamed. This makes it difficult for you to inhale and exhale. In most cases of bronchitis, individuals cough up mucus.

There are two types of bronchitis – acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis is a common condition that is mainly caused by cold or respiratory infections. Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is a condition that causes inflammation of the airways often caused by long term irritation of the lung tissues such as in smoking.

Bronchiectasis and bronchitis are different from each other, though their symptoms and manifestation are quite similar. But their respective causes and treatments are different. Let’s look into these differences.

Difference Between Bronchitis vs Bronchiectasis: Causes and Symptoms

bronchitis vs bronchiectasis


Acute bronchitis is mainly caused by viruses that cause cold and flu. The infection that begins with the nose slowly spreads through the throat and then the airway. Meanwhile, chronic bronchitis is mainly caused by pollutants present in the air that harm your lungs. The pollutants can be dust, chemicals, etc. Other possible cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking.

In this condition, it becomes difficult for you to breathe in and out. Common symptoms of acute and chronic bronchitis include cough which initially starts as dry cough and eventually turns into a wet cough causing difficulty in breathing, wheezing, and heaviness in the chest.

Other symptoms of acute bronchitis include body pain, fever, runny nose, and sore throat. In most cases, even after the symptoms are cured, it might take a few days for the airways to heal completely. If the cough is persistent, it is wise to talk to your doctor, as it might be an indication of some other health condition. In chronic bronchitis, there are chances of you having a cough that may last for several weeks.


If you have existing lung infections or lung diseases, you are more likely to get bronchiectasis. And if you have a weak immune system, you may be at risk of getting the condition. As an example, a patient with cystic fibrosis are more likely to develop bronchiectasis. Cystic fibrosis is a condition that causes severe lung infection and that makes it difficult to breathe.

Other possible causes of bronchiectasis are severe infection and injury to the lungs.

Common symptoms of bronchiectasis include difficulty in breathing, pain in the chest, wheezing, fatigue, weight loss, coughing up thick phlegm. Its symptoms may take a lot of time to develop.

If you come across any of the above symptoms seek medical help. It is important for early diagnosis of the condition for effective treatment. In some cases, bronchiectasis can change the shape and proper functioning of airways.

Bronchitis vs Bronchiectasis: Prevention and Treatment


Factors that increase your possibilities of bronchiectasis include:

  • If you have other lung conditions such as cystic fibrosis
  • Lung disease or infection
  • Immunocompromised state

The cause of bronchiectasis is unknown. However, you can prevent bronchiectasis with the help of the following:

  •  Monitoring your triggers and avoid them as much as possible
  • Protecting your lungs and staying away from substances that might cause irritate for your lungs.
  • Avoiding smoking and coming in contact with chemicals or pollution
  • Taking your annual flu shots

There is no specific treatment available for bronchiectasis. Its treatment only deals with its symptoms. This includes the following:

  • Antibiotics for bacterial infection if there is any
  • Mucolytics
  • Breathing exercises
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation

If left unmanaged, bronchiectasis can be life-threatening.


Factors that increase your possibilities of bronchitis include:

  • Smoking
  • Immunocompromised state
  • Infection

However, you can prevent bronchitis with the help of the following:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Washing your hands frequently
  • Getting your annual flu vaccinations
  • Wearing masks
  • Taking proper precautions against your allergy triggers
  • Avoiding coming in close contact with people who are have symptoms of common colds or flu

Treatment for bronchitis includes:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Mucolytics
  • Breathing techniques
  • Antibiotics

If you have acute bronchitis, your doctor may initially not recommend any treatment with medications. Also, the treatment or medications may vary if you have an existing medical condition.

If you have persistent cough accompanied by chest pain, seek medical help. And if you experience sudden weight loss, insomnia, or blood in the mucus, it might be an indication of any other health condition. If your cough accompanied by insomnia or difficulty in breathing, your doctor may recommend you to undergo a few tests including a pulmonary function test, X-ray, or blood tests.

This is how bronchiectasis and bronchitis are different. Their symptoms maybe somewhat identical, but these two conditions are completely different from each other.

Hence, it is advisable to seek a medical opinion from your doctor to get the right diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Learn more about managing bronchitis, bronchiectasis, and similar respiratory issues here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jezreel Esguerra, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Mar 30, 2023

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