What is bronchiectasis?
Bronchiectasis is a condition which the bronchial tubes located in your lungs are permanently damaged and enlarged abnormally. These damaged air passages give bacteria and mucus a great chance to build up in your lungs. Finally, when the bacteria and mucus passed all the protective defense of your lungs, infections and blockages in the airways will happen.
Bronchiectasis appears when the walls of the airways (bronchi) thicken as a result of chronic inflammation and/or infection and results in mucus accumulating.
Bronchiectasis cannot be cured. But you can live a normal life with the suitable treatment. Flare-ups, however, must be treated quickly so that oxygen isn’t cut off to the rest of your body.
How common is bronchiectasis?
About two to three people in a thousand in the UK have bronchiectasis. In fact, the figure may be higher, as it is thought that some people diagnosed with other long-term lung conditions may actually have bronchiectasis. More women than men develop bronchiectasis. It can occur at any age, even in children, but is most common in older people. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of bronchiectasis?
The common symptoms of bronchiectasis are:
- Coughing up yellow or green mucus every day
- Shortness of breath that gets worse during exacerbations
- Feeling run-down or tired, especially during exacerbations
- Fevers and/or chills, usually developing during exacerbations
- Wheezing or a whistling sound while you breathe
- Coughing up blood or mucus mixed with blood, a condition called hemoptysis
- Chest pain
- Skin with a blue appearance
- Weight loss
- Thickening of the skin under your nails and toes
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes bronchiectasis?
- Infection in your lungs. This is the most common cost of bronchiectasis. This includes viral infections like the flu and bacterial infections like staph or tuberculosis.
- Inhaling foreign objects or food
- Humoral immunodeficiency (low levels of infection-fighting proteins in the blood)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
- Rheumatologic diseases (rheumatoid arthritis and Sjögren’s disease)
- Alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency (genetic cause of COPD in some people)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD
- HIV infection. Human immune system deficiency will causes lots of infectious diseases that can lead to bronchiectasis.
- Breathing in stomach acid
- GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease)
- Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (a type of allergic lung inflammation)
What increases my risk for bronchiectasis?
There are many risk factors for bronchiectasis, such as:
- Absent or dysfunctional CFTR protein in bronchial cells in cystic fibrosis (CF)
- Having a whole-body (systemic) disease associated with bronchiectasis like those mentioned above
- Chronic or severe lung infections (such as tuberculosis, or TB) that damage the airways
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is bronchiectasis diagnosed?
- Listen to your lungs to check for any abnormal sounds or evidence of airway blockage.
- Blood test to identify an infection
- Sputum test to check your mucous for viruses or bacteria
- Chest x-ray or ct scan to provide images of your lungs
- Pulmonary function tests to find out how well air is flowing into your lungs
- Purified protein derivative (PPD) skin test to check for tuberculosis
- Aspergillus precipitins and serum total IgE levels, to diagnose ABPA
- Autoimmune screening tests
How is bronchiectasis treated?
There is no certain cure for bronchiectasis. But if you have prompt treatments, this can help you manage the condition. The main goal of treatment is to keep infections and bronchial secretions under control. It’s also critical to prevent further obstructions of the airways and minimize lung damage
- Treating bronchiectasis with antibiotics is common because bacteria often infect the bronchi.
- Macrolides are a type of antibiotic that not only kill certain types of bacteria but also reduce inflammation in the bronchi.
- Mucus Thinning Medication. These medications are often given through a nebulizer, where it is mixed with hypertonic saline solution, turned into a mist, and inhaled deep into the lungs. The medication given through the nebulizer helps to dissolve mucus in the bronchi so that it can be coughed up more easily.
- Mucus Thinning Devices. These devices have ability to clear out mucus. Some of these devices help the patient exhale into a handheld device that causes air to flutter in the bronchi, which helps break up the mucus. Other devices are wearable and shake the chest to help loosen mucus. Talk to your doctor about whether or not any of these devices are right for you.
- Oxygen therapy
- Hospitalization for severe exacerbations
- Surgical therapies
- Corticosteroid therapy
- Dietary supplementation
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage bronchiectasis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with bronchiectasis:
- Remember to have an early treatment. This will help prevent bronchiectasis from lung infection.
- When you go out, you should avoid polluted air and protect your lungs from chemical fumes.
- Stop and quit smoking is vital to overall lung health
- You should also take your children to the doctor as soon as possible to vaccinate against the flu, pertussis, and measles, as these conditions have been linked to the condition in adulthood.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: August 8, 2017 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019
Bronchiectasis http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/bronchiectasis/diagnosing-and-treating.html. Accessed March 4, 2017
Bronchiectasis http://www.healthline.com/health/bronchiectasis#Causes2. Accessed March 4, 2017
Bronchiectasis http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/296961-overview#a6. Accessed March 4, 2017