Bronchitis is a medical condition characterized by an acute inflammation of the airways of the lungs. In bronchitis, the trachea, bronchi, and the bronchioles become inflamed either due to infections or due to foreign objects that may cause damage to the inner lining of the airways. The inflammation usually occurs when the thin lining of mucus in the airways becomes irritated. When such an inflammation occurs, the lining synthesizes even more mucous. Over a period of time, these secretions build up and there is excessive coughing, which is a natural mechanism for clearing out the mucous. In many cases, the cough and the discomfort caused due to it is very severe.
Anyone can get bronchitis. When severe, the symptoms are usually similar to asthma. There are no routine tests for bronchitis. To diagnose this medical condition, the doctor first takes note of your medical history. There is a detailed discussion about your symptoms, followed by a physical examination. The test for bronchitis also includes eliminating the possibility of pneumonia. When testing for bronchitis, the doctors will also try to make sure that you do not have risk factors for any other serious diseases. Diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can affect treatment and therefore need to be assessed before treatments are given.
If in the preliminary tests, the presence of viruses is detected, treatment is immediately started and another test for bronchitis is not given. However, if in the test, bacterial presence is seen, further tests may be required before prescribing antibiotics.
Further, bronchitis testing is done only if the symptoms do not clear in the next two to three weeks. More complicated tests for chronic bronchitis may be recommended if you have been recently diagnosed with heart failure, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. For people whose immune system is not working very well, complications may develop from bronchitis, and therefore, more tests are immediately conducted so that a diagnosis can be made quickly and treatment can be started.
Possible tests for bronchitis are chest x-rays, gram stains, culture and sensitivity tests, and blood, urine, and stool tests to check for viruses and bacteria. Usually, the x-rays of people who have acute bronchitis are normal and do not show any abnormalities. The mucus of the lungs is sent for a culture in order to check for bacterial presence. This helps the doctor to prescribe the correct antibiotic to the patient.