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Who Gets Chronic Bronchitis?

According to the American Lung Association, chronic bronchitis affects approximately 5.4 percent of the population, or 14.2 million people, in the United States. The condition has been slightly more prevalent in men than in women, but chronic bronchitis affects people of all ages. The highest incidence rate has been found in people over 50 years old. It's no secret that people who smoke cigarettes over a long period of time are most likely to develop chronic bronchitis. Studies have also shown that people who work around industrial fumes or dust are also at a high risk of developing the condition.

Who Gets Chronic Bronchitis?

Exposure to both smoking and air pollution is particularly harmful to the lungs. Other factors that researchers have found to increase the risk of chronic bronchitis include childhood lung conditions and family history. If you suffered lung problems such as pneumonia, bronchitis or asthma as a child, you may have weaker defenses against bacteria and viruses as an adult.

Similarly, if other people in your family have had chronic bronchitis or emphysema, the chances are likely you will get the disease if you smoke. The genes you inherit can also increase the odds that,if you have chronic bronchitis, it will eventually lead to emphysema.

Who Gets Chronic Bronchitis?

Workplace hazards: High rates of chronic bronchitis are found among coal miners, sandblasters, stonecutters, metal molders and other workers exposed to industrial dust.

Recognizing the Symptoms

The symptoms of chronic bronchitis may appear gradually, and each individual may experience symptoms differently. The first sign of the condition is usually a daily morning cough that brings up thick yellow or green phlegm. Early symptoms may also include mild shortness of breath, slight wheezing and greenish mucus when you have a cold. As the years go by, the coughing and wheezing become more frequent, to the point where the condition interrupts your daily activities.

The advanced signs may also consist of severe breathlessness, frequent respiratory infections, fatigue, chest pains, bluish skin and lips, and swelling of the feet. The symptoms of chronic bronchitis may resemble other lung conditions or medical problems, so it's important to consult your physician for a diagnosis of the symptoms. You should contact a healthcare professional right away if you have:

  • A sudden increase in shortness of breath
  • Sharp chest pain with coughing
  • A productive cough with green, yellow or rust-colored mucus
  • Consistent wheezing
  • Changes in the nature of your cough, such as sensation in the chest
  • A cough so severe that it is exhausting
  • A cough that lasts longer than 7 to 10 days without improvement
Who Gets Chronic Bronchitis?

An acute exacerbation is a "flare-up" of symptoms associated with chronic bronchitis and usually means that an infection exists.

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