Diagnosis of acute bronchitis

Diagnosing cough bronchitis

When acute bronchitis is caused by bacteria, it is called acute bacterial bronchitis.

There are several symptoms that may arise due to chronic bronchitis, but what must be said is that not all patients suffering from this condition exhibit all of these symptoms.

Bronchitis can manifest without a fever or a headache, and at times, no sounds or noises can be heard when physically examined by a doctor via ausculatation (the action of listening to sounds from the heart, lungs, or other organs, typically with a stethoscope, as a part of medical diagnosis), and there can also be times when a radiography shows no signs of bronchitis, but bronchitis always manifests with a cough.

This is to mean that any patient suffering for longer than a week with a cough, must immediately see a medical professional.

Depending on the individual characteristics of the patient, (what age group they belong to, whether or not they suffer from any concurrent chronic disease, their physical wellbeing etc) doctors have to decide upon a variety of methods for diagnosing and treating the disease.

By taking a thorough family history and conducting several diagnostic examinations, physicians differentiate between bronchitis and other diseases which may manifest with similar symptoms, such as:

  • Pulmonary tuberculosis
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Other respiratory conditions which include bronchial asthma, or other diseases such as bronchiolite, sarcoidosis, etc.

Treatment and medication is very important if the disease is detected early on, while the inflammation is only affecting the upper portions of the respiratory tract (the bronchi).

In cases when medication is not received in time, bronchiolitis may be caused as a consequence, or the inflammation may affect the parenchymal tissue of the lungs and cause bronchopneumonia.

Differential diagnosis

If coughing is prolonged over several months, then the physician must further characterize and narrow down the causes behind the cough:

  • It could be that the cough is being caused by acute bronchitis which is causing the recurrence of chronic bronchitis.
    In these cases, deciding on a course of treatment is more difficult, and second or third generation antibiotics (usually cephalosporins) have to be used (usually they are employed over a longer course of time).
  • The cough may occur due to a specific disease, such as tuberculosis. In this case treatment is entirely different.
    These are the hardest cases to diagnose, because physicians tend to first consider the most common diseases, like seasonal viral diseases.
    This is why it is important for physicians to take a very thorough family and condition history.
  • The cough may be caused by a chronic disease of the lungs such as sarcoidosis, bronchiectasis, etc, which all caused a prolonged cough.
  • The cough may be caused by bronchial asthma, which causes a prolonged cough.
  • The coughing may be due to allergies, which means the coughing is seasonal, and changes frequently in terms of severity depending on factors such as atmospheric conditions, seasons, the environment, consumption of certain foods, medications etc.
  • A prolonged cough may be caused by bronchial cancer.
  • A prolonged cough may be caused by heart disease.
  • A prolonged cough may be caused by a patient suffering from esophageal reflux.
  • A prolonged dry cough, especially severe at night time, may be caused as a side-effect of using certain antihypertensive medication (ACE inhibitors, enalapril, sartans, beta-blockers,etc).

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 24 Jan 2018
Medical Author: Dr. med. Diana Hysi