Bronchiectasis is a condition in which the bronchial tubes (airways) are thickened due to long-term inflammation and scarring. This leads to a build-up of mucus, frequent lung infections, and eventually, a decline in lung function.
Overview and Symptoms
Symptoms of bronchiectasis include:
- discolored or bloody mucus daily
- chest pain
- abnormal sounds or wheezing in the chest with breathing
- fevers and/or chills
- shortness of breath
There are many lung conditions and infections that may cause damage to the walls of the airways. Cystic fibrosis, in particular, leads to roughly half of the cases of bronchiectasis in the United States.
To determine if you have bronchiectasis, our specialists will first ask about your symptoms and past health problems, and conduct a thorough physical exam. Additional tests may include:
- Bronchoscopy - A bronchoscope is a long, thin, flexible tube that enables a doctor to look into your airways. During the procedure, your doctor will examine your throat, larynx, trachea, and lower airways to look for damage in your airways.
- Chest X-ray - A chest X-ray allows specialists to see how well your heart and lungs are functioning.
- Chest CT Scan - This examination can show the extent and location of lung damage. CT scans are far more detailed than a standard chest X-ray.
Although there is no cure for bronchiectasis, specialty physicians work closely with nurse practitioners, nurses and respiratory and physical therapists to provide personalized care.
You may be prescribed medication to better control your symptoms. They are typically provided in pill form or through a nebulizer, a device that delivers aerosol medication which is inhaled into the lungs. Medications include antibiotics to prevent infections, Bronchodilators to help open the airways and mucus-thinning medications to make it easier to cough up mucus.
Surgical treatment options include lobectomy, in which the lobe in your lungs that is affected by bronchiectasis is removed. In rare instances, lung transplantation is a treatment option.
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