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Bronchiectasis

What is Bronchiectasis?

Bronchiectasis, pronounced (brong-kee-ECK-tah-sis) is a relatively rare condition that affects the lungs.

In bronchiectasis the bronchial tubes become enlarged and distended forming pockets where infection may gather. The walls themselves are damaged which results in impairment to the lung’s complex cleaning system. The tiny hairs, called cilia which line the bronchial tubes and sweep them free of dust, germs and excess mucus - are destroyed. When this cleaning system is not working effectively dust, mucus and bacteria accumulate. Infection develops and is difficult to remove.

The Causes Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis is caused by various types of infections which damage and weaken the bronchial walls and interfere with the action of the cilia. Patients may be predisposed to get this condition with various congenital or inherited deficiencies such as immunological deficiency or cystic fibrosis. Rarely patients inherit a primary abnormality of the hair cells or cilia which renders them more prone to develop bronchiectasis.

Certain pneumonias which may be associated with measles and whooping cough, usually occurring in childhood may predispose to this condition by weakening the walls of the bronchial tubes and causing pockets of infection to form.

An obstruction of some sort - anything that presses on the bronchial tubes from the outside or blocks them from the inside - may also cause bronchiectasis. In childhood this most commonly results from choking on food such as a peanut which is small enough to go down the windpipe and large enough to block off one of the air tubes. When this happens the wall of the tube is injured and air is prevented from passing beyond the obstruction. The bronchial tube, below the obstruction, balloons out to form a perfect hiding place for infection and pus.

Symptoms of Bronchiectasis

The most common symptom of bronchiectasis is a daily cough. The cough may last for months or years.

Other symptoms of bronchiectasis are:

Daily production of large amounts of mucus, or phlegm

  • Repeated lung infections
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain

Over time, more serious symptoms develop. More serious symptoms of bronchiectasis are:

  • Coughing up blood or bloody mucus
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Sinus drainage

Can Bronchiectasis be Treated?

Yes. Treatment is designed to:

  • Treat any underlying conditions and respiratory infections
  • Help remove mucus from your lungs
  • Prevent complications

Treatments include:

  • Bronchodilators open your airways by relaxing the muscles around them.
  • Antibiotics to treat infections.
  • Corticosteroids to help reduce inflammation in your lungs.
  • Mucus thinners to loosen the mucus.
  • Expectorants help loosen the mucus in your lungs.
  • Saline nasal washes help control sinusitis.

Complications of Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis can also lead to other serious health conditions, including:

  • Collapsed lung
  • Heart failure, if the disease advances to affect all parts of your airways
  • Brain abscess

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