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What is Bronchiectasis?

Bronchiectasis is a chronic condition characterized by a thickening of the walls of the bronchi (or branches of the lung). Inflammation and infection cause this thickening which in turn damages the airways causing them to widen and become flabby and scarred.

What are the Symptoms of Bronchiectasis?

If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, please see your doctor immediately for diagnosis and treatment.

  • Chronic daily cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Abnormal sounds or wheezing in the chest with breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up large amounts of thick mucus every day
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Thickening of the skin under your nails and toes, known as clubbing
  • Frequent respiratory infections

How is Bronchiectasis Diagnosed?

Your doctor will listen to your lungs to check for any abnormal sounds or evidence of airway blockage. A complete blood test to look for infection and anemia will also likely be needed. Other tests may include:

  • Sputum test to analyze your mucus for microorganisms such as viruses, fungus, 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
  • QuantiFERON blood test or purified protein derivative (PPD) skin test to check for tuberculosis
  • Sweat test to screen for Cystic Fibrosis (CF)

What Are the Treatment Options for Bronchiectasis?

There’s no cure for bronchiectasis, but treatment is important to help you manage the condition. The main goal of treatment is to keep infections and secretions under control. It’s also critical to prevent further obstructions of the airways and minimize lung damage. Common methods of treating bronchiectasis include:

  • Treatments to clear the airways (like breathing exercises and chest physiotherapy)
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation
  • Antibiotics to prevent and treat infection — studies are underway on new formulations of inhaled antibiotics
  • Bronchodilators like albuterol (Proventil) and tiotropium (Spiriva) to open up airways
  • Medications to thin mucus
  • Expectorants to aid in coughing up mucus
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Vaccinations to prevent respiratory infections

Another recommended treatment might include physiotherapy. For example, a high-frequency chest wall oscillation vest can help clear your lungs of mucus. The vest gently compresses and releases your chest, creating the same effect as a cough, dislodging mucus from the walls of the bronchial tubes. 

What Bronchiectasis Resources Does Erlanger Offer?