Difference Between Bronchitis and Bronchiectasis

Bronchitis and bronchiectasis are two respiratory disorders that affect the airways, particularly the bronchi, which are the tubes that carry air into the lungs. Although both conditions share some similarities, they differ in their causes, symptoms, and treatments. In this essay, we will discuss the difference between bronchitis and bronchiectasis in detail.

What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is a common respiratory disorder that occurs when the bronchial tubes become inflamed and produce excess mucus. There are two types of bronchitis: acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a viral infection and is characterized by a sudden onset of cough, chest congestion, and difficulty breathing. The symptoms of acute bronchitis usually last for a few days to a week and can be managed with over-the-counter medications and plenty of fluids.

Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is a long-term condition that is caused by smoking, air pollution, or other irritants. It is characterized by a persistent cough that produces sputum and can last for several months. Chronic bronchitis can lead to complications such as respiratory failure and pneumonia if left untreated.

Symptoms − Bronchitis typically begins with a cough that eventually may produce sputum. There is also often a pain in the chest and a feeling of tightness and dyspnea is often present. The breathing passages are often very congested. In addition, the condition usually lasts for over a week and may even take up to 21 days for a person to fully recover from.

Diagnosis and causes − A clinician can diagnose bronchitis in a person by doing a physical exam and noting the symptoms. Listening to the chest and also doing a chest X-ray may be helpful in ruling out other possible causes of the chest problems. Most often the condition is the result of a viral infection particularly associated with influenza type A and B, and rhinovirus. There are other viruses that can lead to bronchitis, including the parainfluenza and coronavirus. Environmental factors such as smoking can result in bronchitis as can having the illness cystic fibrosis.

What is Bronchiectasis?

Bronchiectasis, on the other hand, is a chronic respiratory condition that occurs when the bronchial tubes become permanently damaged and widened. This damage is usually caused by repeated infections or inflammation, and it leads to a build-up of mucus in the airways. The symptoms of bronchiectasis include coughing, wheezing, chest pain, shortness of breath, and recurring respiratory infections. Bronchiectasis can also cause complications such as lung abscesses, respiratory failure, and heart failure if left untreated.

Symptoms − Having a cough that will not go away and also coughing up pus-filled sputum are symptoms of bronchiectasis. Some patients may also experience difficulty breathing and have a fever.

Diagnosis and causes − A physical exam in conjunction with CT scans can help in diagnosing bronchiectasis in a patient. It is important that the scans are done at a high resolution in order to detect the condition. The condition may occur in one or a few spots in the lungs or throughout the lungs. The illness can be caused by allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, cystic fibrosis, and problems with the cilia and disease of the connective tissues. In some cases of focal bronchiectasis, the cause is thought to be pneumonia.

Differences: Bronchitis and Bronchiectasis

The treatment for bronchitis usually involves relieving the symptoms with over-the-counter medications, rest, and plenty of fluids. Antibiotics may be prescribed if the bronchitis is caused by a bacterial infection. In the case of chronic bronchitis, quitting smoking and avoiding irritants is crucial to prevent further damage to the airways.

Bronchiectasis, on the other hand, is a long-term condition that requires ongoing treatment to manage the symptoms and prevent complications. This treatment may include antibiotics, bronchodilators, and pulmonary rehabilitation.

The following table highlights the major differences between Bronchitis and Bronchiectasis −





Bronchitis is the disorder in which the tracheal passage and bronchi become inflamed.

Bronchiectasis is the disorder in which bronchi in the lungs widen and become destroyed.

Permanent change

The disorder bronchitis never leads to a permanent change in the shape or structure of bronchi.

The disorder bronchiectasis often leads to a permanent change in the shape or structure of bronchi.


The earliest symptom of bronchitis is usually a cough, which may or may not result in sputum being produced. The chest is also painful and feels tight and there is difficulty in breathing (dyspnea).

The bronchiectasis often has symptoms of dyspnea, a chronic cough, and production of sputum which is full of pus.


The diagnosis of bronchitis is usually by physical examination and a chest X-ray.

The diagnosis of bronchiectasis is done by looking at a high-resolution CT scan of the chest


Bronchitis can be caused by smoking and from viral infections such as those caused by influenza A or B, parainfluenza or coronavirus.

Bronchiectasis can be caused by bacterial infections such as pneumonia, and chronic infections such as cystic fibrosis, allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosus, and HIV.

Risk factors

Cigarette smoking, having the flu, various viruses, and cystic fibrosis are risk factors for developing bronchitis.

Having cystic fibrosis, HIV, or allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosus are risk factors for developing bronchiectasis.


In conclusion, bronchitis and bronchiectasis are two respiratory disorders that affect the bronchial tubes. While they share some similarities in their symptoms, they differ in their causes and treatments.

Bronchitis is usually a short-term condition that can be managed with rest and over-the-counter medications, while bronchiectasis is a long-term condition that requires ongoing treatment to manage the symptoms and prevent complications. It is important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan for either condition.

Updated on: 30-Mar-2023


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