Bronchiectasis is a condition in which an abnormal widening of one or more airways is created. Usually, small glands that are present in the lining of the airways make a small amount of mucus. Mucus tries to keeps the airways moist and traps if any dust or dirt comes with the inhaled air.
As bronchiectasis creates an abnormal widening of the airways, extra mucus tends to form and pool in parts of the widened airways. There are widened airways with extra mucus which are very prone to infection.
Causes of Bronchiectasis
The cause of bronchiectasis is often not clear. Some of the conditions that affect or damage airways can cause the disease, for example:
How is bronchiectasis diagnosed?
- Some inherited conditions - For example, a condition called primary ciliary dyskinesia affects the cilia, so that they do not 'move' correctly to clear the mucus. Cystic fibrosis is a different condition that further affects the lungs and causes bronchiectasis.
- Inhaled objects can become stuck and tend to block an airway. This may further lead to local damage of that airway. Acid from the stomach which is regurgitated and inhaled can damage airways as well as inhaling poisonous gases.
- The major lung infections such as tuberculosis (TB), whooping cough, pneumonia or measles can further damage the airways at the time of infection. Bronchiectasis can be then developed.
Your doctors will ask lots of questions about you and your symptoms which you had. If your doctor finds that you may have bronchiectasis, you will be further referred to a respiratory consultant.
You will have some tests, which are likely to include:
- A chest X-ray
- CT Scan
- Tests on your sputum to find out if any bacteria is there
- Blood tests
- Lung function tests
Symptoms of Bronchiectasis
The main symptom of bronchiectasis is a cough which produces a lot of sputum, tiredness and poor concentration as well as wheeziness. To confirm diagnosis of this disease, lung scan and other lung & sputum tests can be performed. Treatment involves regular physiotherapy, which helps coughing up and clearing the mucus, and courses of antibiotics. Surgery is sometimes needed.
Treatment of Bronchiectasis
Treatment focuses to prevent further damage & infections and reduce your symptoms. You will have:
- Maintenance treatments that you take regularly to reduce the number of infections you get and keep you well
- Treatment for flare ups or chest infections
Other conditions causing your bronchiectasis will also be treated – for example problems with your immune system.