Cigarette Smoking – A Major Risk Factor of Chronic Bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis is a very common respiratory disease that involves inflammation and infection of the bronchial tubes, mucosal membranes and tissues. The disease is manifested by an overproduction of mucus that results in temporary obstruction of the airways. In the first stages of chronic bronchitis, the disease only affects the major airways, generating milder and less persistent symptoms. However, in more advanced stages of chronic bronchitis all airways are affected, preventing the proper oxygenation of the lungs due to pronounced obstruction of the respiratory tract. As the disease progresses further, chronic bronchitis sufferers may develop serious complications at the level of the lungs. Complicated forms of chronic bronchitis often involve emphysema or pneumonia.
Chronic bronchitis is responsible for causing the so called “smoker’s cough”. This persistent, highly productive cough has a pronounced recurrent character. In the incipient phase of chronic bronchitis, this symptom usually occurs in the morning and clears within a few hours. As the disease progresses, “the smoker’s cough” is ongoing and it rarely ameliorates without the aid of medical treatment. When the cough produces blood or yellowish mucus, it is a major indicator of complications, suggesting the spreading of the disease at pulmonary level.
Although there are various causes of chronic bronchitis, the disease is often linked with cigarette smoking. Recent studies indicate that both active and passive smoking greatly contribute to the occurrence of chronic bronchitis. In addition, smoking facilitates the progression of the disease and decreases the potency of specific medications. Smoking weakens the natural defenses of the respiratory tract, facilitates the proliferation of bacteria and slows down the healing of the soft tissues, membranes and organs involved in breathing.
Recent statistics reveal that there are more than 14 million people with chronic bronchitis in the United States. Around 17 percent of overall chronic bronchitis cases are diagnosed in regular smokers while around 12 percent of cases are diagnosed in former smokers. Studies in the field suggest that regular smokers are 85 percent more exposed to developing chronic bronchitis than non-smokers. The risk of developing chronic bronchitis is directly proportional with the number of cigarettes smoked.
An interesting fact is that chronic bronchitis also has a high incidence among former smokers, suggesting the long-term damage caused by cigarette smoking to the organism. Physicians sustain that it takes several months or even years until the undesirable effects of smoking at the level of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems disappear completely. On the premises of genetic predispositions for respiratory, pulmonary or cardio-vascular diseases, regular smokers are even more susceptible to developing chronic bronchitis.
Smokers that suffer from chronic bronchitis are advised to quit smoking for good. Although it may take a while until the respiratory tissues and organs are completely regenerated and cured from the effects of smoking, timely quitting this self-destructive habit can prevent the occurrence of further complications. Nevertheless, the absence of smoking speeds up the process of recovery from chronic bronchitis, minimizing the risks of relapse.
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