Bronchitis vs. Asthma

The difference between bronchitis and asthma is that bronchitis is the inflammation of the mucosal linings of bronchi while asthma is the hypersensitivity of the airways to any allergen.

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Bronchitis vs. Asthma

Both bronchitis and asthma are airway diseases and very common nowadays. When bronchi are inflamed, it is termed as bronchitis. Bronchi are the tubes which conduct air from the trachea to the lungs. While asthma is a condition in which the hypersensitivity of the airways occurs against any allergen and on exposure to this allergen, the hypersensitivity reaction starts.

The signs and symptoms of bronchitis include cough, chest congestion and tightness, body aches, fever, rigors and chills, running nose, feeling tiredness and fatigued while the signs and symptoms of asthma are sneezing and airway congestion on exposure to allergen, exacerbation of the problem while sleeping, weakness, shortness of breath, running nose and watery eyes.  The underlying cause  of bronchitis may be a viral or bacterial infection, pollutants like smoke, dust or other irritant particles while asthma occurs due to an allergen which may vary from person to person. The allergen may be pollen, dust, mites, smoke, coffee, peanut, tobacco, weather changes or cotton.

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Bronchitis is diagnosed by history and clinical examination including auscultation. Sometimes investigations are needed like spirometry, chest X-ray, and CBC. Asthma is also diagnosed by history and clinical examination. Sometimes investigations are needed like IgE antibodies level in blood, spirometry, blood count, chest X-ray, etc.

Bronchitis is further divided into acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis while asthma is not further divided into types.

The precautions for bronchitis are, to avoid smoking, wear mask, bed rest and to take plenty of water. The precautions for asthma are the same as for bronchitis also the very important thing is to avoid the allergen.

The treatment of bronchitis includes antibiotics and antitussives. Anti-allergic drugs are given if the nasal discharge or post nasal drip. The treatment of asthma includes anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-allergic and bronchodilators to open and clear the airways.

Comparison chart

Basis Bronchitis Asthma
Definition It is defined as the inflammation of the bronchi (the passage of air from the trachea to lungs).It is a condition in which the hypersensitivity of the airways develop against any allergen leading to congestion and swelling of airways.
Types It is further divided into acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis.Asthma is not further divided into subtypes.
Signs and symptoms Signs and symptoms of bronchitis are coughs, chest congestion and tightness, low-grade fever, stuffy or running nose and feeling tired.Signs and symptoms of asthma are continuous sneezings on exposure to allergen and then shortness of breath and chest tightness. Running nose and watery eyes may also occur.
Diagnosis It is diagnosed by history and clinical examination mainly by auscultation. Rarely investigations needed like spirometry, chest X-ray and oxygen level.It is diagnosed by history, clinical examination and investigations like blood IgE level and hypersensitivity reaction to the allergen. CBC, chest X-ray and oxygen levels may also be checked.
Underlying cause The underlying cause may be a bacterial or viral infection or environmental pollution and smoke particles.The underlying cause is the hypersensitivity to an allergen that may be dust, smoke particles, tobacco, mites, perfume, cotton or wool particles, changing the environment, etc.
Relation with genetics It is not genetically transmitted.Asthma may be genetically transferred.
Treatment It is treated by antibiotics, anti allergic medicines, and antipyretics if there is a fever.It is treated by bronchodilators (mainly steroids) , anti-allergic medicines and anti-inflammatory drugs.
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Contents: Difference between Bronchitis and Asthma

What is bronchitis ?

The word ‘itis’ refers to inflammation. Thus bronchitis means the inflammation of the bronchi. Bronchi are the airway tubes connecting the lungs with the trachea. The trachea divides to form right and left bronchus which is collectively called as bronchi. The inflammation of the bronchi may occur due to a viral or bacterial infection, environmental pollution, irritant substances, smoke or dust, etc. Bronchitis is divided into two types, acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis occurs for a short period of time and relieves after conventional treatment. The main symptom of bronchitis is a cough. Apart from cough, chest congestion, tightness and wheezing may also occur. If there is fever also, it indicates a bacterial infection. If there is a cough for continuous three months for consecutive two years, it is termed as chronic bronchitis, and it typically occurs in heavy cigarette smokers. Bronchitis is diagnosed clinically by history and examination. Rarely investigations are needed like CBC and chest X-ray. Bronchitis is treated with antibiotics and anti-allergic drugs. Bed rest is advised, and the affected patient should take plenty of water.

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What is asthma?

Asthma is defined as the hypersensitivity of the airways against an allergen. The allergen may be pollen, dust, smoke, mites, perfume, coffee, cotton or wool particles , tobacco or any other thing. It may run in families. The signs and symptoms of asthma include early phase reactions and late phase reactions. In early phase reactions, continues sneezing occurs while in late phase reactions, chest tightness and shortness of breath take place. For the treatment of asthma, it is first and foremost to avoid the allergen, and it is the first and foremost strategy. Asthma is diagnosed clinically by history and examination, but certain investigations are also needed like serum IgE level, the partial pressure of oxygen, spirometry, chest X-ray and CBC.  Asthma is treated with bronchodilators ( steroids are the mainstay for this purpose) , anti-allergic medicines and leukotriene antagonists. Asthma is not further divided into types. Inhalation of bronchodilator drugs is the treatment of choice in case of acute attack. Oral and IV drugs are also used.

Key differences

  1. Bronchitis is the inflammation of bronchi (airway tubes) while asthma is the hypersensitivity of the airway to an
  2. The cause of bronchitis may be a viral or bacterial infection of environmental pollution while asthma always occurs due to an allergen which is an irritant particle
  3. Bronchitis does not transfer to the offspring while asthma may transfer to the next generation.
  4. In bronchitis, cough is the main symptom, while in asthma, sneezing and chest tightness is the main symptom.
  5. Bronchitis is treated with antibiotics while asthma is treated with bronchodilators and leukotriene antagonists.

Conclusion

Bronchitis and asthma both are airway diseases. The underlying cause and pathogenesis of both are different. It is important to know the differences between the cause, symptoms, and treatment of both diseases. In the above article, we learned the clear differences between asthma and bronchitis.

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