Health Library Explorer
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A-Z Listings Contact Us
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Click a letter to see a list of conditions beginning with that letter.
Click 'Topic Index' to return to the index for the current topic.
Click 'Library Index' to return to the listing of all topics.

What Is Chronic Bronchitis?

Chronic bronchitis is when damaged lungs make more mucus than they should. If you cough up mucus  for at least 3 months each year, 2 or more years in a row, without another diagnosis to explain the cough, you may have chronic bronchitis.

Healthy lungs

This is what happens when your lungs are healthy:

  • Inside the lungs are branching airways of stretchy tissue. Each airway is wrapped with bands of muscle that help keep it open. Air travels in and out of the lungs through these airways.

  • The cells in the lining of the airways produce a sticky fluid called mucus. This traps dust, smoke, and other particles in the air you breathe and helps protect the lungs.

  • Tiny hairs called cilia then sweep the mucus up the airways to the throat, where it is swallowed or coughed up, again to protect the lungs.

When you have chronic bronchitis

This is what happens when you have chronic bronchitis:

  • Cells in the airways make more mucus than normal. The mucus builds up, narrowing the airways. This means less air travels into and out of the lungs.

  • The lining of the airways may also become swollen (inflamed). And the muscle surrounding the airways may tighten (constrict). These problems cause the airways to narrow even more.

  • The cilia may also be damaged. This means they can’t sweep mucus and particles away. This damage makes the problems described above even worse.

   

   

Online Medical Reviewer: Alan J Blaivas DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC
Online Medical Reviewer: Wanda Taylor RN PhD
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2018
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.