Bronchiectasis is a condition wherein the bronchial tubes of the lungs are enlarged and permanently damaged, giving way for excess mucus and bacteria to build up in the lungs, causing infections.
The most common cause of bronchiectasis is an infection in your lungs. This includes viral infections like the flu and bacterial infections like staphyloccal infection or tuberculosis. Additional causes of bronchiectasis include:
- inhaling foreign objects or food
- breathing in stomach acid
- cystic fibrosis
- GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease)
- weakness in your immune system (e.g. HIV, uncontrolled diabetes)
Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary disease where mucus builds up in the lungs and other organs like the stomach. This results in repeated infections.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), chronic bronchitis, and emphysema also obstruct the lungs and raise your risk for bronchiectasis.
Symptoms of bronchiectasis do not develop overnight. Depending on the severity, symptoms can occur over weeks, months or even years. The following are the most usual symptoms of this condition:
- Chest pains
- Shortness of breath
- Bad breath
- Chronic coughing
- Blood in the sputum
- Wheezing in the chest
- Weight loss
- Thickening of the skin under toes and nails
- Excessive coughing up of mucus
If you have any/some/all of the above symptoms, seek your doctor's counsel immediately.
Your doctor will confirm the initial signs of bronchiectasis by using his stethoscope for any unusual sounds in your lungs, following which he may prescribe a blood test. Other forms of diagnosis may include:
- Pulmonary function tests
- Sputum tests
- CT scan
- Purified protein derivative skin test – for tuberculosis
While there is no known cure for bronchiectasis, there are many ways in which one can manage the condition. As long infections are kept under control, one can lead a normal day to day life. Some prescribed treatments for bronchiectasis are:
- Bronchodilators to open up airways
- Oxygen therapy
- Expectorants to aid in coughing up mucus
- Medications to thin mucus
In severe case such as bleeding in the (lungs), surgery may be necessary of which your doctor will inform and guide you.