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Chronic Bronchitis

What is chronic bronchitis?

Chronic bronchitis is a type of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). COPD is a group of lung diseases that make it hard to breathe and get worse over time. The other main type of COPD is emphysema. Most people with COPD have both emphysema and chronic bronchitis, but how severe each type is can be different from person to person.

Chronic bronchitis is inflammation (swelling) and irritation of the bronchial tubes. These tubes are the airways that carry air to and from the air sacs in your lungs. The irritation of the tubes causes mucus to build up. This mucus and the swelling of the tubes make it harder for your lungs to move oxygen in and carbon dioxide out of your body.

What causes chronic bronchitis?

The cause of chronic bronchitis is usually long-term exposure to irritants that damage your lungs and airways. In the United States, cigarette smoke is the main cause. Pipe, cigar, and other types of tobacco smoke can also cause chronic bronchitis, especially if you inhale them.

Exposure to other inhaled irritants can contribute to chronic bronchitis. These include secondhand smoke, air pollution, and chemical fumes or dusts from the environment or workplace.

Rarely, a genetic condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency can play a role in causing chronic bronchitis.

Who is at risk for chronic bronchitis?

The risk factors for chronic bronchitis include:

  • Smoking. This the main risk factor. Up to 75% of people who have chronic bronchitis smoke or used to smoke.
  • Long-term exposure to other lung irritants, such as secondhand smoke, air pollution, and chemical fumes and dusts from the environment or workplace.
  • Age. Most people who have chronic bronchitis are at least 40 years old when their symptoms begin.
  • Genetics. This includes alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, which is a genetic condition. Also, smokers who get chronic bronchitis are more likely to get it if they have a family history of COPD.
What are the symptoms of chronic bronchitis?

At first, you may have no symptoms or only mild symptoms. As the disease gets worse, your symptoms usually become more severe. They can include:

  • Frequent coughing or a cough that produces a lot mucus
  • Wheezing
  • A whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe
  • Shortness of breath, especially with physical activity
  • Tightness in your chest

Some people with chronic bronchitis get frequent respiratory infections such as colds and the flu. In severe cases, chronic bronchitis can cause weight loss, weakness in your lower muscles, and swelling in your ankles, feet, or legs.

How is chronic bronchitis diagnosed?

Your health care provider may use many tools to make a diagnosis:

  • A medical history, which includes asking about your symptoms
  • A family history
  • Various tests, such as lung function tests, a chest x-ray or CT scan, and blood tests
What are the treatments for chronic bronchitis?

There is no cure for chronic bronchitis. However, treatments can help with symptoms, slow the progress of the disease, and improve your ability to stay active. There are also treatments to prevent or treat complications of the disease. Treatments include:

  • Lifestyle changes, such as
    • Quitting smoking if you are a smoker. This is the most important step you can take to treat chronic bronchitis.
    • Avoiding secondhand smoke and places where you might breathe in other lung irritants
    • Ask your health care provider for an eating plan that will meet your nutritional needs. Also ask about how much physical activity you can do. Physical activity can strengthen the muscles that help you breathe and improve your overall wellness.
  • Medicines, such as
    • Bronchodilators, which relax the muscles around your airways. This helps open your airways and makes breathing easier. Most bronchodilators are taken through an inhaler. In more severe cases, the inhaler may also contain steroids to reduce inflammation.
    • Vaccines for the flu and pneumococcal pneumonia, since people with chronic bronchitis are at higher risk for serious problems from these diseases.
    • Antibiotics if you get a bacterial or viral lung infection
  • Oxygen therapy, if you have severe chronic bronchitis and low levels of oxygen in your blood. Oxygen therapy can help you breathe better. You may need extra oxygen all the time or only at certain times.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation, which is a program that helps improve the well-being of people who have chronic breathing problems. It may include
    • An exercise program
    • Disease management training
    • Nutritional counseling
    • Psychological counseling
  • A lung transplant, as a last resort for people who have severe symptoms that have not gotten better with medicines

If you have chronic bronchitis, it's important to know when and where to get help for your symptoms. You should get emergency care if you have severe symptoms, such as trouble catching your breath or talking. Call your health care provider if your symptoms are getting worse or if you have signs of an infection, such as a fever.

Can chronic bronchitis be prevented?

Since smoking causes most cases of chronic bronchitis, the best way to prevent it is to not smoke. It's also important to try to avoid lung irritants such as secondhand smoke, air pollution, chemical fumes, and dusts.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Cocaine

What is cocaine?

Cocaine is a very addictive drug that is made from leaves of the coca plant found in South America. It is mostly available as an illegal drug that some people use to get high. In rare cases, it is also used as a prescription drug for for anesthesia during certain surgeries.

As a street (illegal) drug, cocaine is usually a fine, white, crystal powder. Street dealers sometimes mix it with cornstarch, talcum powder, or flour to make it look like they have more cocaine. That way they can make more money. They may also mix it with other illegal drugs. Another form of the drug is crack cocaine. Crack cocaine has been heated to make it into a rock crystal.

How do people use cocaine?

People snort cocaine powder through the nose or rub it into their gums. Others dissolve the powder and inject it into the bloodstream. Some people inject a combination of cocaine and heroin, called a "speedball." Crack cocaine is smoked.

What are the short-term effects of cocaine?

Cocaine is a stimulant that can make people feel like they have more energy and are extra alert. But it can also make people feel restless, irritable, anxious, and paranoid. Large amounts of cocaine can lead to bizarre, unpredictable, and violent behavior.

Cocaine's effects appear almost immediately and disappear within a few minutes to an hour. How long the effects last and how intense they are will depend on how the person used it.

In some cases, cocaine can cause very serious health problems such as a heart attack, stroke, or coma.

What are the long-term effects of cocaine?

People who use cocaine over the long term may develop health problems. Which problems they have will depend on how they used the cocaine:

  • Snorting it can lead to a loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds, nasal damage, and trouble swallowing.
  • Smoking it can cause a cough, asthma, trouble breathing, and a higher risk of infections like pneumonia.
  • Injecting it with a needle can lead to skin or soft tissue infections, as well as scarring. It can cause collapsed veins. When a vein collapses, the blood cannot flow through it. Injecting cocaine also puts a person at higher risk of getting diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C.

Other long-term effects of cocaine use may include malnutrition and movement disorders, including Parkinson's disease.

Repeated use of cocaine can lead to tolerance. This means users need more and more of the drug to have the same effect. At higher doses over time, the body becomes dependent on cocaine. If someone who is dependent on cocaine stops using it, they will have withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can include:

  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Increased appetite
  • Bad dreams and insomnia
  • Slowed thinking

Repeated use of cocaine can also lead to cocaine use disorder, also called addiction. This is more than physical dependence. It's a chronic (long-lasting) brain disorder. When someone has it, they continue to use cocaine even though it causes problems in their life. Some examples include health problems and not being able to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home. Getting and using cocaine becomes their main purpose in life.

Can a person overdose on cocaine?

It's possible to overdose on cocaine. This happens when a person uses so much cocaine that it causes a life-threatening reaction or death. Some people use cocaine along with other drugs or alcohol. This can increase the risk of an overdose.

A cocaine overdose can cause health problems such as:

  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Heart attack

There is no specific medicine to treat an overdose. Health care providers will focus on treating the specific health problems caused by the overdose.

What are the treatments for cocaine use disorder?

The treatments for cocaine use disorder are different types of behavioral therapies. There are no medicines which can treat it.

NIH: National Institute on Drug Abuse

Collapsed Lung

A collapsed lung happens when air enters the pleural space, the area between the lung and the chest wall. If it is a total collapse, it is called pneumothorax. If only part of the lung is affected, it is called atelectasis.

Causes of a collapsed lung include:

  • Lung diseases such as pneumonia or lung cancer
  • Being on a breathing machine
  • Surgery on the chest or abdomen
  • A blocked airway

If only a small area of the lung is affected, you may not have symptoms. If a large area is affected, you may feel short of breath and have a rapid heart rate.

A chest x-ray can tell if you have it. Treatment depends on the underlying cause.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Coma

A coma is a deep state of unconsciousness. An individual in a coma is alive but unable to move or respond to his or her environment. Coma may occur as a complication of an underlying illness, or as a result of injuries, such as brain injury.

A coma rarely lasts more than 2 to 4 weeks. The outcome for coma depends on the cause, severity, and site of the damage. People may come out of a coma with physical, intellectual, and psychological problems. Some people may remain in a coma for years or even decades. For those people, the most common cause of death is infection, such as pneumonia.

NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Common Cold

What is the common cold?

The common cold is a mild infection of your upper respiratory tract (which includes your nose and throat). Colds are probably the most common illness. Adults have an average of 2-3 colds per year, and children have even more. Colds are more common in the winter and spring, but you can get them at any time.

What causes the common cold?

More than 200 different viruses can cause a cold, but rhinoviruses are the most common type. The viruses that cause colds are very contagious. They can spread from person to person through the air and close personal contact. You can also get infected when you touch something that has the virus on it and then touch your eyes, mouth, or nose. For example, you could get a cold after you shake hands with someone who has a cold or touch a doorknob that has the germs on it, and then touch your face.

What are the symptoms of the common cold?

The symptoms of a common cold usually include:

  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose (congestion)
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Headache

The symptoms usually start a few days after you become infected with the virus. Some symptoms can last for 10-14 days.

What are the treatments for the common cold?

There is no cure for the common cold. But there are treatments that can make you feel better while you wait for the cold to go away on its own:

  • Getting lots of rest.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Using a clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer.
  • Gargling with warm salt water.
  • Using saline nose drops or sprays.
  • Taking over-the-counter pain or cold and cough medicines. But you need to be careful with certain medicines:
    • Children and teens should not take aspirin.
    • Some cold and cough medicines contain ingredients that are not recommended for children. Talk with your child's health care provider before giving your child any cold and cough medicines.
    • Some cold and cough medicines contain pain relievers. If you also take a separate pain reliever with these medicines, you could be getting a dangerous amount of the pain reliever. Read the labels on the medicines and follow the instructions carefully. If you have questions, ask your provider or a pharmacist.

Antibiotics will not help with a cold. Antibiotics help with bacterial infections, not with viral infections such as colds.

Most people who have a cold will feel better after a week or two. However, some people who get a cold may develop other illnesses, such as bronchitis or pneumonia. This is more common in people with weakened immune systems, asthma, or other respiratory conditions. Contact your provider if you or your child have symptoms that concern you, such as:

  • Trouble breathing or fast breathing
  • Dehydration
  • Fever that lasts longer than 4 days
  • Symptoms that last more than 10 days without improvement
  • Symptoms, such as fever or cough, that improve but then return or worsen
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions
Can the common cold be prevented?

There is no vaccine to protect against the common cold. But you may be able to reduce your risk of getting or spreading a cold by:

  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoiding touching your face, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoiding close contact, such as kissing, shaking hands, and sharing cups and eating utensils, with others if you are sick or they are sick.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that you frequently touch.
  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Then throw away the tissue and wash your hands.
  • Staying home when sick.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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