When you have bronchiectasis, your airways become abnormally wide and scarred. This can be due to infection or another condition that prevents you from clearing mucus from your airways.
Over time, as you’re increasingly unable to clear the mucus, bacteria can grow in your airways and serious infection can develop. This cycle of repeated infections can damage your airways and make it harder for you to breathe properly, which can lead to respiratory or heart failure. Treatment can help you live as comfortably as possible with bronchiectasis.
Bronchiectasis usually develops in childhood but can happen at any age. It can be caused by an injury, ongoing inflammation or infection, or diseases such as the flu, pneumonia, tuberculosis and cystic fibrosis.
Bronchiectasis can be caused by some conditions that are preventable with vaccines — such as pneumonia, the flu, measles and pertussis — so it’s important to have all of the vaccinations your doctor recommends. If you or your child has a lung infection, it’s important to have it treated so it doesn’t cause lasting damage. Additionally, avoid fumes, gases and smoke, which can harm your lungs.
Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms, examine you and perform tests to provide a diagnosis.
Symptoms of bronchiectasis include:
- Shortness of breath.
- Coughing that’s worse when you lie down.
- Large amounts of mucus expelled.
- Pain, tightness and abnormal sounds in your chest.
- Thickening of the skin under your fingernails and toenails.
Tests your doctor may use to diagnose bronchiectasis include:
At El Camino Health, treatment of bronchiectasis focuses on controlling and relieving symptoms such as excess mucus, preventing infection and complications, and keeping your airway open.
Treatment may include:
- Practicing regular chest physical therapy exercises to remove secretions, such as pounding your chest and back with your hands or a device.
- Daily coughing exercises to prevent secretions.
- Medications to prevent and treat infection.
- Lung resection surgery, a procedure in which all or part of your lung is removed.