Chronic bronchitis is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, in which the lining of the bronchi stays constantly irritated and inflamed. Captain Miller, can you tell us more about chronic bronchitis?
Sure thing, Dr. Flemings. Inflammation of the bronchi occurs when the tiny hairlike structures called cilia become damaged. Normal cilia help move mucus up the bronchial tubes. This mechanism is called the mucociliary escalator. But when cilia become damaged, it becomes harder to cough up mucus. This, in turn, causes more coughing and more irritation.
When the lining of the bronchi is constantly irritated and inflamed, it swells and narrows the airway. In addition, the irritated lining produces even more mucus, which further narrows and clogs the bronchi. These changes limit the airflow in and out of the lungs, and make it difficult to breathe.