Bronchiectasis is abnormal widening of the airways. This is often caused by chronic infection of the airways, most commonly caused by bacteria.
This chronic infection causes chronic inflammation of the airways.
Inflammation damages the lung and can result in bronchiectasis.
Due to the damage and widening of the lungs, mucous is not cleared from the lungs as effectively as normal – leading to a buildup of mucous.
The main symptom of Bronchiectasis is a chronic cough producing mucus.
Other symptoms include:
An important feature of bronchiectasis is acute episodes of worsening symptoms known as exacerbations.
These exacerbations may be set off by a head cold, but often there is no clear cause.
Your doctor may send you off for x-rays, CT scans or High Resolution CT scans. Any abnormal widening of the airways is usually visible off these scans.
Your doctor may also wish to send some of your mucus away for testing to test which bacteria is causing the infection.
It is recommended that patients have breathing tests from time to time to monitor disease progress. The frequency of testing will depend on deterioration and exacerbation rate for the individual patient.
One of the most important treatments for bronchiectasis is mucous clearance which can usually be effectively treated with physiotherapy.
Quite often an individual program can be created that includes:
Exercise is another great treatment for bronchietasis and patients can benefit greatly from participating in a pulmonary rehabilitation program.
Medications such as inhaled bronchodilators, inhaled corticosteroids and occasionally corticosteroid tablets may be used to control asthma-like symptoms such as inflammation. Speak to your doctor about which medication is right for you.
Patients with bronchiectasis should have annual flu vaccines and pneumococcal vaccines every five years.