Bronchitis is inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, the primary airway connecting the trachea, or windpipe, to the lungs. The bronchial tubes swell and produce mucus, making it hard for air to pass in and out of the lungs. The excess mucus often causes a cough, and patients also may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, or heaviness in the chest. Other symptoms may include headache, chills, fever, or wheezing. Bronchitis may be caused by bacteria or viruses that irritate the airway. Many times it develops from a cold or other respiratory infection.

Bronchitis may be classified as acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis usually begins with a cold or respiratory infection and typically lasts a few days. Even if other symptoms such as chest pain go away quickly, the cough may persist for several weeks. Most people experience acute bronchitis sometime in their lives. Chronic bronchitis, often seen in smokers, lasts much longer and is a more serious medical condition. Patients may experience symptoms every day or nearly daily for months at a time. Those with chronic bronchitis are more susceptible to bacterial infections of the lungs, such as pneumonia. Chronic bronchitis is one of the conditions included in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.


The UAB Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine has consistently been recognized among the best programs of its kind by U.S. News & World Report, and it is widely known for its treatment and research of airway diseases, especially chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema. Our medical team includes nationally recognized pulmonologists, advanced practice nurses, respiratory therapists, exercise physiologists, physiatrists, physical therapists, and other professionals who provide the compassionate care you deserve.

UAB Medicine offers a unique treatment path for patients with COPD. At our dedicated Pulmonary Clinic, patients receive a comprehensive evaluation, a complete treatment plan, and state-of-the-art therapy. For your convenience, a nurse practitioner manages patient care and is available for patient phone calls and care of sick patients during office visits. We consider patient education to be a priority in your care. Patients who are admitted to UAB Hospital (including UAB Hospital-Highlands) with a COPD diagnosis may be enrolled in a care management project that provides enhanced discharge planning services to help manage your condition after your return home. In addition, the UAB Lung Health Center offers new drugs and therapies through clinical research studies, and advanced treatments such as bronchoscopic lung volume reduction and lung transplantation are available to qualified patients.

In some people, a genetic condition can contribute to their lung disease, and UAB may be able to help. Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, or simply alpha-1, is a genetic disorder that can result in serious lung diseases such as emphysema and COPD, as well as liver disease. People with these conditions, along with healthy people who know they have alpha-1 in their family, should be tested to see if they have this genetic condition. Alpha-1 testing can be performed by most primary care physicians and pulmonologists. Treatments, including weekly protein infusions, are available for individuals who test positive for alpha-1. These therapies work to slow or prevent further damage to the lungs and overall health. People with alpha-1 can self-refer to UAB Medicine’s Alpha-1 Clinic, a Clinical Resource Center recognized by the Alpha-1 Foundation.

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Related Conditions

Listed below are some conditions that may be related to or share some similarities with the condition addressed on this page.



UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials for the diagnosis and treatment of bronchitis. We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.

View Clinical Trials