Bronchiectasis is a condition where
the bronchial tubes of your lungs are permanently damaged and enlarged. These
damaged air passages allow bacteria and mucus to build up in your lungs. This
results in infections and blockages in the airways.
Bronchiectasis is treatable, but it cannot
be cured. With treatment, you can live a normal life. Flare-ups, however, must
be treated quickly so that oxygen isn’t cut off to the rest of your body.
What Are the Causes of
The most common cause of
bronchiectasis is an infection in your lungs. This includes viral infections
like the flu and bacterial infections like staph or tuberculosis. Additional
causes of bronchiectasis include:
foreign objects or food
in stomach acid
(gastro-esophageal reflux disease)
in your immune system (e.g. HIV, uncontrolled diabetes)
According to the National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH), one-third of all
cases of bronchiectasis are caused by cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is a
hereditary disease where mucus builds up in the lungs and other organs like the
stomach. This results in repeated infections.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases
(COPD), chronic bronchitis, and emphysema also obstruct the
lungs and raise your risk for bronchiectasis.
What Are the Symptoms of
Symptoms of bronchiectasis can take
months or even years to develop. Here are some of the symptoms:
- chronic coughing
- coughing up blood
- abnormal sounds or wheezing in the chest on
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- coughing up large amounts of mucus daily
- bad breath odor
- skin with a blue appearance
- weight loss
- thickening of the skin under your nails and toes
If you’re experiencing any of these
symptoms, you should see your doctor immediately for diagnosis and treatment.
How Is Bronchiectasis
Your doctor will listen to your lungs
to check for any abnormal sounds or evidence of airway blockage. You’ll likely
need a complete blood test to identify an infection. Other tests may include:
Treatment Options for
There is no cure for bronchiectasis,
but prompt treatments 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. Common methods of treating bronchiectasis include:
- antibiotics to fight infection
- bronchodilators like albuterol (Proventil) and
tiotropium (Spiriva) to open up airways
- medications to thin mucus
- expectorants to aid in coughing up mucus
- oxygen therapy
You may need the help of a
high-frequency, chest wall oscillation vest to rid your lungs of mucus. The
vest gently compresses and releases your chest, creating the same effect as a
cough. This dislodges mucus from the walls of the bronchial tubes.
If there’s bleeding in the lung, or if
the bronchiectasis is located in only one portion of your lung, surgery may be needed
to remove the affected area.
Draining of the bronchial secretions
may also be performed on a daily basis as a part of treatment. A respiratory
therapist can teach you techniques to aid in coughing up the excess mucus.
If your bronchiectasis is caused by
conditions like immune disorders or COPD, your doctor will treat those
conditions as well.
Can Bronchiectasis Be
Early treatment of a lung infection is
essential to prevent bronchiectasis. Avoid polluted air and protect your lungs
from chemical fumes. Quitting smoking is vital to overall lung health
You should also have your children
vaccinated against the flu, pertussis, and measles, as these conditions have
been linked to the condition in adulthood.