What is Bronchiectasis?
Bronchiectasis is a chronic condition where the airways (bronchi) of your lungs are inflamed, infected, and permanently damaged.
Why Does Bronchiectasis Happen and How Does it Affect You?
If your lungs are injured, there will be inflammation and/or infection present in your bronchi. This leads to the accumulation of mucus and thickening of the walls of your bronchi. The condition finally results in a cycle of bacterial infection, a pool of mucus in your lungs, blockages in your bronchi, and gradual decline in your lung function over time. In the end, you will have difficulty with breathing.
What are the Risk Factors and Causes of Bronchiectasis?
Any sort of lung injury can lead to bronchiectasis and it can sometimes affect your whole body. You may also develop bronchiectasis if you have any of the following conditions:
- A whooping cough and tuberculosis (forms of lung infections)
- Humoral immunodeficiency (blood with low levels of infection-fighting proteins or abnormally functioning immune system)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
- Rheumatologic diseases (rheumatoid arthritis and Sjögren’s disease)
- Alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency (COPD caused by a genetic factor)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD
- Infection with HIV or autoimmune diseases
- Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (an allergic lung inflammation)
Bronchiectasis not only affects your lungs, but it may also have an impact on your pancreas and liver resulting in repeated infections and poor functioning of these organs.
Symptoms of Bronchiectasis
Symptoms of typical bronchiectasis may take several months or even years to develop and manifest. Therefore, you should see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment if you:
- Experience frequent respiratory infections
- Have a chronic cough and discharge of blood or mucus mixed with blood
- Are coughing up a large amount of thick yellow or green mucus regularly
- Produce abnormal or wheezing or whistling sound while breathing
- Have chest pain and shortness of breath
- Suffer from fatigue and unintended weight loss
- Find change in the structure of your fingernails or toenails
How can Bronchiectasis be Diagnosed?
Your doctor will first listen to your lungs and check for airway blockage or any abnormal sounds while you breathe. Several tests may be ordered to diagnose the condition, including:
- Complete blood test for the possibility of infection and anemia
- Sputum test for the presence of viruses or bacteria or fungi in your mucus
- Chest X-ray or CT scan to have a look at your lung structure
- Pulmonary test to find out how normally your lungs are functioning
- Purified protein derivative (PPD) skin test or QuantiFERON blood test to check for tuberculosis
- Sweat test to screen for Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a type of bronchiectasis
What are the Possible Treatments of Bronchiectasis?
Bronchiectasis cannot be cured. However, it can be managed and kept under control by the following methods:
- Antibiotic therapy
- Mucus thinning therapy
- Oxygen therapy
- Chest physiotherapy
- Pulmonary rehabilitation
- Bronchodilators remedy
- Expectorants remedy
- Breathing exercises
- Clinical trials
With early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, you can lead a normal life.
Prevention of Bronchiectasis
In most cases, the exact cause of bronchiectasis cannot be found. Apart from vaccination, avoiding smoking or polluted air or toxic fumes or dust seem to be the best way to prevent bronchiectasis and save your lungs.