Acute bronchitis may be responsible for the hacking cough and phlegm production that sometime accompany an upper respiratory infection. In most cases, the infection is viral in origin, but sometimes it's caused by bacteria.
If you are otherwise in good health, the mucus membrane should return to normal after you've recovered from the initial lung infection, which usually lasts for several days.
Chronic bronchitis is a serious long-term disorder that often requires regular medical treatment.
If you are a smoker and come down with acute bronchitis, it will be much harder for you to recover. Every cigarette damages the tiny hair-like structures in your lungs, called cilia, that are responsible for brushing out debris, irritants, and excess mucus.
If you continue smoking, the damage to these cilia prevent them from functioning properly, thus increasing your chances of developing chronic bronchitis. In some heavy smokers, the mucus membrane lining the airways stays inflamed and the cilia eventually stop functioning altogether. Clogged with mucus, the lungs are then vulnerable to viral and bacterial infections, which over time distort and permanently damage the lungs' airways. This permanent condition is called COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Your doctor can perform a breathing test, called spirometry, to see if you have developed COPD. WebMD has many resources to help you to successfully quit smoking.
Chronic bronchitis is one of two main types of a COPD. The other main form of COPD is emphysema. Both forms of COPD make it difficult to breathe.