Chronic Bronchitis | Overview


What is chronic bronchitis?

Bronchitis is an inflammation (or irritation) of the airways in the lungs. Airways are the tubes in your lungs that air passes through. They are also called bronchial tubes. When the airways are irritated, thick mucus forms in them. The mucus plugs up the airways and makes it hard for air to get into your lungs.

Bronchitis causes a cough that produces mucus (sometimes called sputum), trouble breathing and a feeling of tightness in your chest.

"Chronic" means that the condition last a long time. Chronic bronchitis is bronchitis that lasts longer than 3 months. Chronic bronchitis often occurs with emphysema, and together these diseases are called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).


Chronic Bronchitis: Primary Care Management by JM Heath, MD; R Mongia, MD (American Family Physician May 15, 1998,

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/14
Created: 05/98