What is bronchiectasis?

Conditions that affect your ability to breathe can make it difficult, if not impossible, for you to work. Lung conditions can be chronic in nature, meaning that they develop over time.

Bronchiectasis is one such condition that specifically affects the main passages that allow air into the lungs, called the bronchi. According to the Cleveland Clinic, bronchiectasis results from damage to the bronchi.

What causes bronchiectasis?

The most common cause of bronchiectasis is a genetic lung condition called cystic fibrosis. Damage to your bronchi can also result from severe or chronic lung infections (e.g., pneumonia), autoimmune diseases, obstructed airways or aspiration of foreign materials into the lungs. Sometimes it is not possible to determine the cause of bronchiectasis.

What are the symptoms of bronchiectasis?

Inflammation causes scarring of the bronchi and damage to the thin strands of hair called cilia that line the inside of each and help move mucus out of the lungs. Damage to the cilia and weakening of the cell wall cause mucus to collect in the air passages. Bronchiectasis can cause a frequent cough that produces a lot of mucus. It can also cause you to have chest pain and difficulty breathing. You may also start wheezing, and your breathing can cause whistling noises as the air moves through the clogged passages.

What does management involve?

Management of bronchiectasis involves first treating the underlying condition and then breaking up the mucus so you can cough it out, thus clearing your airway. The techniques for accomplishing this include physical therapy, airway clearance devices and expectorant medications.

Living well with bronchiectasis involves taking care of your lungs. To prevent respiratory infections, you should receive vaccinations for pneumonia and influenza as directed by your doctor. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water helps prevent the mucus from getting sticky. Smoking exacerbates lung problems. If you already smoke, your doctor can provide assistance with tobacco cessation.

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