Difference Between Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema

Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the main two disease conditions categorized under chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD). As the name implies, chronic bronchitis means long term inflammation of the air tubes in the lung. Inflammation causes narrowing of the tube. This will usually affect the respiration. Emphysema is a disease condition where the air sacs are damaged. Both disease conditions can be caused by smoking, and cessation of the smoking habit is needed if these disease conditions are to be identified.

Usually the air moves in when the chest expands, and the air fills the air bags (alveoli) in the lungs. The air will blow out when the lungs are deflated. The air bags are elastic in nature, and the recoiling capacity helps to move the air out. In emphysema, the recoiling capacity is diminished, and the air bags increase in size. Then the expiration cannot expel the air completely. Genetic mutation, which leads to alpha 1 trypsinase deficiency, is also an identified reason for emphysema.

In the medical field, the emphysema patients may be named as pink puffers, and the chronic bronchitis patients may be denoted as blue bloaters. This is because emphysema patient’s face looks pink, and usually does not retain the carbon dioxide but, in chronic bronchitis, the patient develop cyanosis (blue colour) and retain carbon dioxide.

In both conditions, the patient will feel difficulty in breathing, and have more chances to get lung infection.


What is the difference between Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema?

• Both emphysema and chronic bronchitis are COPDs.

• Both will present with difficulty in breathing.

• In emphysema, the main problem in the air sacs; in chronic bronchitis, it is in the air tube.

• Emphysema patients are pink puffers, and the chronic bronchitis patients are blue bloaters.