What is bronchiectasis?

Bronchiectasis is a respiratory disease that affects the elastic properties of the bronchial tubes, the main airways of the lungs. Bronchiectasis results in severe congestion, chronic cough, a decreased ability to effectively expel sputum (mucus from the lower airways), and shortness of breath.

Bronchiectasis is a relatively uncommon respiratory disorder in the United States. Approximately 110,000 people in the United States have bronchiectasis. Bronchiectasis is more common in women than men. However, in children, bronchiectasis is more common in boys than girls (Source: NHLBI).

Cystic fibrosis is the most common cause of bronchiectasis, and it accounts for half of all cases. Immune disorders, such as human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), can also play a role in the development of bronchiectasis. Less common genetic causes of bronchiectasis are ciliary dyskinesia (rare condition affecting the tiny structures that move mucus out of the airways) and allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (exaggerated immune response to the fungus Aspergillus).

Symptoms of bronchiectasis often take months or years to develop and worsen over time. Treatments for bronchiectasis include antibiotics, bronchodilators, expectorants, and chest physical therapy. Healthy lifestyle practices can reduce the risk of bronchiectasis or improve symptoms, including good hand washing, drinking plenty of fluids, eating a well-balanced diet, getting plenty of rest, and refraining from smoking.

Bronchiectasis symptoms can be associated with a serious or life-threatening condition. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for severe difficulty breathing, which may be accompanied by pale or blue lips, rapid heart rate (tachycardia), sweating, and anxiety.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for bronchiectasis but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.


What are the symptoms of bronchiectasis?

Bronchiectasis causes bronchial airway damage and chronic congestion, as well as a number of other symptoms. The symptoms can vary in intensity among individuals.

Common symptoms of bronchiectasis

You may experience bronchiectasis symptoms daily or just once in a while. At times, any of these bronchiectasis symptoms can be severe:


What causes bronchiectasis?

Bronchiectasis is caused by damage to the lining of the main airways of the lungs (bronchi), usually the result of a pre-existing infection. The walls of the bronchi lose the capability to allow you to effectively cough up sputum, or mucus, leading to further congestion and damage. Cystic fibrosis is a common cause of bronchiectasis, but immune disorders, such as HIV/AIDS, can also play a role ... Read more about bronchiectasiscauses


How is bronchiectasis treated?

Treatment for bronchiectasis begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. The goal of treatment is to help clear congestion and decrease infection. In severe cases that do not respond to therapy or that are accompanied by severe bleeding, your health care provider may recommend surgical resection of the affected air passages.

Medications for the treatment o... Read more about bronchiectasistreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Lungs, Breathing and Respiration

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