What is bronchiectasis?
Bronchiectasis (bron-kee-ek’-tas-is) is a lung disease that can result from infections or things that injure the walls of the airways. The airways are the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs.
The lung injury can cause problems with mucus build up. The mucus then creates a place in which germs can grow. This leads to frequent severe lung infections. Each infection causes more damage to the airways.
Over time, the airways become stretched out, flabby, and scarred. It may be hard to move air in and out. This can affect how much oxygen reaches your other body organs. If your lungs can not move enough oxygen into your body, bronchiectasis can lead to serious illness, such as heart failure.
Bronchiectasis can affect just a part of one lung or many sections of both lungs. It often starts in childhood, but symptoms may not appear until months or even years after you have started having many lung infections.
There are two types of bronchiectasis
- Acquired bronchiectasis: This type occurs in adults and older children. It is more common.
- Congenital bronchiectasis: This type most often affects infants and children. It results from a problem in the growth of the lungs in the fetus. About half of all cases of this disease result from a disease called cystic fibrosis.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms vary widely from patient to patient. The symptoms may include:
- Coughing (worse when lying down)
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
- Tan or green mucus, foul smelling, bloody
How do I know if I have this?
Doctors test for this disease with a chest x-ray, breathing tests, sputum culture, and/or CT scan. Testing for other diseases like cystic fibrosis or TB can also be helpful.
What is the treatment?
Patients are often given antibiotics for infection and medicines to open the airways. There are also physical therapy techniques to help clear mucus. Lung transplants are also an option for severe cases.
Can it be be prevented?
If lung infections are treated right away, bronchiectasis is less likely to occur. Patients should avoid cigarette smoke and other lung irritants, and not use sedatives. Vaccines against measles, flu, and other infections could also prevent this.
If you have any questions or concerns please call UWHC Pulmonary Clinic, Monday-Friday 8:00am-4:30pm at (608)263-7203.
Toll free: 1-800-323-8942, please ask for Pulmonary Clinic.
For more information, see the American Lung Association website, www.lungusa.org or call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872).
- Medline Plus. Bronchiectasis. www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000144.htm
- Mysliwiec V, Pina JS. Bronchiectasis: the ‘other’ obstructive lung disease. Postgraduate Medicine 1999 July, Vol. 106(1): 123-31. www.postgradmed.com/
- National Jewish Medical and Research Center. Medfacts: Bronchiectasis. www.nationaljewish.org/
- Bronchiectasis Topic. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy Section 6. Pulmonary Disorders.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 02/09/2010
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