Chronic bronchitis history and symptoms

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Seyedmahdi Pahlavani, M.D. [2]

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Chronic bronchitis is defined clinically as persistent cough that produces sputum (phlegm), for at least three months in two consecutive years. Bronchitis may be indicated by an expectorating cough (also known as a productive cough, i.e. one that produces sputum), shortness of breath (dyspnea) and wheezing. Occasionally, chest pains, fever, and fatigue or malaise may also occur.[1]


  • The hallmark of chronic bronchitis is dyspnea. A positive history of chronic productive cough and shortness of breath is suggestive of chronic bronchitis. Some patients describe the dyspnea as air hunger because of sensation of gasping for air.[2]

Common Symptoms

  • Productive cough with gradual progression to intermittent shortness of breath.[3]
  • Sputum may contain blood (hemoptysis), usually due to damage of the blood vessels of the airways.
  • An acute exacerbation may present as productive cough or an acute chest illness.
  • The cough typically is worse in the mornings and produces a small amount of colorless sputum.
  • The frequency and severity of acute exacerbation usually increases as the disease progresses.
  • In later stages progressive cardiac/respiratory failure may present with edema and weight gain.

Other Symptoms

Severe Bronchitis


  1. Vanfleteren LE, Spruit MA, Wouters EF, Franssen FM (2016). "Management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease beyond the lungs". Lancet Respir Med. doi:10.1016/S2213-2600(16)00097-7. PMID 27264777.
  2. Festic E, Bansal V, Gajic O, Lee AS (2014). "Prehospital use of inhaled corticosteroids and point prevalence of pneumonia at the time of hospital admission: secondary analysis of a multicenter cohort study". Mayo Clin. Proc. 89 (2): 154–62. doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2013.10.028. PMC 3989069. PMID 24485129.
  3. U.S. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute - Signs and Symptoms

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