Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thursday, July 16, 2009 Fumer, Community Member, asks

Q: Is there a difference between COPD and chronic bronchitis?

I am a smoker (46 years) and was recently diagnosed (by a Pulmonologist) as having chronic bronchitis. I am on a steroidal inhaler. Is there a difference between COPD and Chronic Bronchitis? If so, what is the difference?

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Answers (1)
Kathi MacNaughton, Health Pro
7/31/09 8:26pm

Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are 2 different types of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD for short). Although very closely related, they are separate conditions. The biggest risk factor for both, though, is long-term tobacco smoking.


The primary symptom of emphysema is shortness of breath, caused by destruction of the tiny air sacs, called alveoli, in the bottom of your airways. This part of the lungs is where oxygen is transferred to the bloodstream. When that transfer can't happen efficiently, you begin to have difficulty breathing and to get tired very easily.


Chronic bronchitis' most common symptoms is a chronic cough that produces thick, smelly mucus in such large amounts that your airways cannot adequately expel it, leading to frequent respiratory infections. There may also be shortness of breath.


Both conditions are treated in a similar fashion. Quitting smoking is the best first step. Medicines can include bronchodilators, anti-inflammatories (steroids), and supplemental oxygen. There may also be lifestyle changes that are needed.


I hope that answers your question, but if not, feel free to comment back and I'll try to provide more information.


To your health,


asthmamomof3, Community Member
8/27/11 10:29pm

since I'm on the site I may as well ask you this then.  I know through experience that I have bouts of chronic bronchitis.  I also have chronic asthma and allergies a mile long.  I "died" once when I was 5 years old and I was told my heart had stopped for about 5 minutes but by the grace of God I'm still here.  I will be 38 in September.  I could never get straight answers from the doctors and I still don't.  I never "grew" out of it contrary to popular belief however I was able to control it a little better.  Advair didn't really help but Symbicort seems to be doing the trick as my ventolin puffer lasts me a little over a month as before I was lucky if I could get 2wks out of it.  Seriously.  I've been hospitallized so many times I could install my own intervenous if I had to lol.  I have more experience and knowledge then some doctors and nurses out there.  That's the sad part..  How many times I've gone to the ER with an attack and because I wasn't weezing or my oxygen levels where still in the norm they'd make me wait it out.  Until one time I overheard one nurse who knew my history tell the intern, just because a patient isn't wheezing, doesn't mean they can't breathe.  The wheezing is just the air that's trying to pass through...when you don't wheeze, it means there's less air ...not a better thing.  I've been in attacks so bad that I could barely breathe in.  Which brings me to my question about the nebulizer vs the puffers, I've had an inhalotherapist tell me the puffer with the chamber is better than a nebulizer...since when????


If you can barely even take a small breathe IN the puffer is NOT going to work.  Speaking from experience.  I never understood where the "scientists" came up with that idea.  Who where they doing their research on?  Not any longterm, severe asthmatic will tell you in an attack to pass him the puffer if the nebulizer is available.  And another thing :-)  can you explain to me how ur lungs can become "dependant" on ventolin?  This is what a pharmacist once told after she refused me my ventolin puffer after I ran out and had nothing! my opinion refusing medication to an asthmatic is like refusing insulin to a diabetic.  That day in particular I felt as if she was treating me like an addict.  Like as if I could just "think" the attack away.  If it was that easy...there wouldn't be so many suffering from pulmonary illnesses :-)

Kathi MacNaughton, Health Pro
9/12/11 3:11pm

Hi... Sorry it's taken me so long to answer this comment. First off, I'm glad you've finally stumbled on a treatment regime that is working for you. Most asthmatics can have their disease controlled, but it often takes a lot of trial and  error to find the right combination of meds. We are each different and respond differently to the same meds and also our environments can vary. So, treating asthma is not as black & white as some might think.


Second, patients' feelings about what is going on with their bodies is often discounted by healthcare professionals who believe they have advanced knowledge and are the "experts." But what we professionals always need to remember is that the patient knows his/her body best. So we MUST listen. As a nurse who is also asthmatic, I can see both sides. But not all healthcare workers have that dual perspective, so if they try to discount what you're feeling, speak up for yourself!


Third, there is a persistent misconception that asthma is an emotional disease that is often "in your head", that somehow the symptoms aren't real or could just be overcome if we would "calm down & relax". Not true. Though stress and intense emotions can worsen asthma symptoms, they are NOT the cause of them. The cause is always physical.


And if you are overusing your rescue inhaler, it's not an "addiction" that you should be reprimanded for or that you can cure by withholding the inhaler. Needing to use an inhaler more than 2 or 3 times in a week is a sure sign that asthma is NOT under control. And the solution for that is NOT to withhold the rescue inhaler... it's to seek out a better daily treatment regime that will reduce your need to use the rescue inhaler by controlling/preventing your symptoms from occurring in the first place!


Gee, now you have gotten me all hot & bothered! Wink


Sorry, but this kind of mistreatment of people with chronic health conditions really gets my dander up! We must keep advocating for ourselves, people!

Betty, Community Member
1/25/13 1:55pm

I was just diagnosed with COPD-chronic bronchitis. What life changes do I need to be aware of. I stopped smoking at 39, now I am 66. Exercise or rehab?

Will COPD go away once the bronchitis has gone away? Thank you 

Kathi MacNaughton, Health Pro
2/11/13 8:44pm

You are not going to like my answer, but neither chronic bronchitis or COPD will go away. They are chronic illnesses and there is no cure for most chronic illnesses. That being said, however, there are many things you can do to keep these conditions under control for a very long time.


Stopping smoking is always the best bet, and you have done that. But also do your best to avoide exposure to secondary smoke, which can also be harmful. Learn how to balance activity and rest, but DO stay as active as you possibly can. Walking and swimming can be great exercises that are often tolerated well by people with respiratory conditions.


Follow the instructions your medical team gives you, including taking medicines exactly as prescribed. Eat healthy & keep or get your weight into a healthy range. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. Manage your stress. Seek out sources of support, because having a chronic illness can take a toll on your emotions.


In short, you can still live a quality, productive life when you have COPD, but there ARE changes and adaptations that will need to be made along the way.

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By Fumer, Community Member— Last Modified: 04/22/14, First Published: 07/16/09