Bronchiectasis: Permanent Airway Dilation In the Lungs

What is Bronchiectasis?

chronic cough

Bronchiectasis is a condition in which there is permanent enlargement of the airways in the lungs, resulting in a chronic, persistent cough and other respiratory difficulties. It is typically caused by a severe respiratory infection or underlying conditions that affect the immune system. It is a very common condition, affecting more than 200,000 new patients in the US every year.

Causes

Bronchiectasis typically develops as the result of another underlying illness or condition including the following:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Impaired immune system
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • HIV
  • Allergic aspergillosis
  • Lung infections
    • Whooping cough
    • Tuberculosis

Types

Acquired Bronchiectasis

Acquired bronchiectasis is the result of an underlying illness or medical condition that dilates the airways of the lungs.

Congenital Bronchiectasis

Congenital bronchiectasis is permanent dilation of the airways that develops in the womb, usually due to disorders affecting cilia motility.

Bronchiectasis

Symptoms

  • Chronic cough
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up mucus
  • Fatigue
  • Thickening of the skin under nails
  • Frequent respiratory infections

Diagnosis

Your primary care physician can diagnose bronchiectasis based on your medical history, a thorough physical examination, and diagnostic imaging of the lungs. They will likely order additional testing to rule out certain underlying conditions. Many patients will be referred to a pulmonologist for ongoing treatment.

Treatment

There is no cure for bronchiectasis, so treatment is centered around managing the symptoms of the condition and preventing possible complications. This includes controlling chronic infections and relieving airway obstructions. Surgical removal of portions of affected lung can help prevent further complications. Inhaled steroid therapy can alleviate some of the airway constrictions.

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