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Bronchitis vs Bronchiectasis: What's the Difference?

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 a healthy lifestyle can help to manage it. Even if you have minor symptoms, it is important to treat as soon as possible to avoid further lung inflammation.

What is bronchitis?

Bronchitis, on the other hand, is a lung condition that occurs when the airways in the lungs 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. While chronic bronchitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the airways and is often caused by smoking.

This is the difference between bronchitis vs bronchiectasis. Since bronchiectasis and bronchitis are different from each other, their respective causes, symptoms, and treatments are also different. Let’s look into these differences.

Difference between bronchitis vs bronchiectasis causes and symptoms

bronchitis vs bronchiectasis

Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis is mainly caused because of viruses that cause cold and flu. The infection that begins with the nose slowly spreads through the throat and then the airway. While chronic bronchitis is mainly caused because of 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 advised to talk to your doctor. 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.

Bronchiectasis

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. If you have cystic fibrosis, you are more likely to get bronchiectasis. Cystic fibrosis is a condition that causes severe lung infection and that makes it difficult to breathe.

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

Common symptoms of bronchiectasis include difficulty in breathing, pain in the chest, wheezing, fatigue, weight loss, coughing up thick phlegm. The symptoms of bronchiectasis 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

Bronchiectasis

Factors that increase your possibilities of bronchiectasis include:

  • If you have cystic fibrosis you are more likely to get bronchiectasis.
  • And if you have lung disease or infection, you are at a high risk of getting bronchiectasis.
  • If you have a weak immune system, it increases your chances of getting the condition.

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

  • The cause of bronchiectasis is unknown. It is important to monitor your triggers and avoid them as much as possible.
  • It is important to protect your lungs and stay away from substances that might cause trouble for your lungs. To avoid lung damage, you must avoid smoking, coming in contact with chemicals or pollution.
  • Take your annual flu shots.

Treatment for bronchiectasis includes:

  • There is no specific treatment available for bronchiectasis. Your doctor may prescribe you medications that will help you to cure infections. Apart from medications, your doctor may advise you medications to loosen phlegm, breathing exercises, oxygen therapies, pulmonary rehabilitation.
  • If left untreated, bronchiectasis can be life-threatening.

Bronchitis

Factors that increase your possibilities of bronchitis include:

  • Smoking increases your possibilities of getting acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis.
  • If you have a weak immune system, you are more likely to get an infection. Frequent infection can cause lungs to damage and increases your possibility of getting bronchitis.
  • If you have a family history of chronic bronchitis or any lung disease, you are likely to get the condition.

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

  • Quit smoking. Smoking cigarette makes you more prone to bronchitis.
  • Wash your hands frequently to avoid exposure to germs that make you more prone to developing the condition. You can even try good quality hand sanitizers.
  • Get your annual flu shots. In most cases, bronchitis occurs because of viral infections. Getting timely vaccination helps to prevent you from getting an infection.
  • If you are allergic to dust, consider wearing masks. Take proper precautions that will help you avoid an allergic reaction.
  • Avoid coming in close contact with people who are sick or have symptoms of cold or fever.

Treatment for bronchitis includes:

  • If you have acute bronchitis, your doctor may initially not recommend any treatment with medications. In some cases, your doctor may ask you take medications that help to loosen phlegm, or take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • If you have chronic bronchitis, your doctor may recommend you to try breathing techniques to relieve the condition.
  • 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 you have a persistent 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. However, presenting problems like cough, chest complaints, or breathing difficulty may appear similar.

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.

Sources

Bronchiectasis/https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21144-bronchiectasis Accessed September 23, 2021

Bronchitis/https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bronchitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20355566 Accessed September 23, 2021

Bronchial Disorders

https://medlineplus.gov/bronchialdisorders.html Accessed September 23, 2021

Bronchiectasis, Bronchitis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7150028/ Accessed September 23, 2021

Differential Diagnosis of Bronchiectasis and Bronchitis

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S009602171631264X Accessed September 23, 2021

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Written by Nikita Bhalla Updated 4 weeks ago
Fact Checked by Bianchi Mendoza, R.N.