Bronchitis is an inflammation or infection of the lower air passages and their smaller branches. These structures carry air from the windpipe (trachea) and distribute it to the lungs.
Bronchitis may exist alone, or be a sign of a general problem such as heart disease, allergies, parasites, or bacterial and viral infections. The actual lung tissue may become involved as well, leading to pneumonia.
Causes include bacterial or viral infections, allergies, and inhalation of irritants or pollutants.
Common signs include:
Diagnosis is based on symptoms, examination findings, blood and other laboratory tests, x-rays, and response to treatment.
Treatment usually consists of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories or antihistamines. Medications to expand the airways may also be necessary.
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