Bronchiectasis is a long-term condition where the airways of the lungs become abnormally widened, leading to a buildup of excess mucus that can make the lungs more vulnerable to infection. It involves the permanent enlargement and damage of the bronchial tubes, which are passages that carry air to and from the lungs.

The most common symptoms include a persistent cough that produces mucus (sputum), breathlessness, and repeated chest infections. Factors that can cause the disease include cystic fibrosis, immune system deficiencies, allergic reactions, and severe lung infections.

Bronchiectasis can occur at any age, and its severity varies from person to person. It isn’t usually life-threatening, but it does require long-term treatment to manage symptoms. This treatment usually involves physiotherapy and medication to clear the lungs of mucus, as well as antibiotics to treat infections when they occur.


Causes of Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis is a long-term condition where the airways of the lungs become abnormally widened, leading to a build-up of excess mucus that can make the lungs more vulnerable to infection. Several factors can cause bronchiectasis, including:

1. Lung infections: Severe lung infections like pneumonia, tuberculosis, or fungal infections can damage the bronchial tubes, leading to bronchiectasis.

2. Underlying health conditions: Certain health conditions can cause bronchiectasis, such as cystic fibrosis (a genetic disorder that causes sticky mucus to build up in the lungs), primary ciliary dyskinesia (a genetic disorder affecting the tiny hair-like structures that line the airways), and immune deficiency disorders like HIV or AIDS.

3. Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis (ABPA): This is an allergic reaction to a fungus called Aspergillus fumigatus, which leads to inflammation of the bronchial tubes.

4. Non-Tuberculous Mycobacterial (NTM) infection: This infection is caused by bacteria found in soil and water. It can damage the bronchial tubes, causing bronchiectasis.

5. Inhalation and aspiration of foreign objects or harmful substances: If foreign objects enter or substances such as gastric acid, are aspirated into the bronchial tubes, it can cause injury and subsequent bronchiectasis.

6. Obstructive diseases including tumor, foreign body, or lymph nodes can also lead to bronchiectasis by blocking the bronchial tubes.

Please note that in many cases, the cause of bronchiectasis is unknown, a condition referred to as idiopathic bronchiectasis. It’s important to seek medical attention if you are experiencing symptoms of bronchiectasis, such as a persistent cough, breathlessness, coughing up blood, or repeated chest infections.

Risk Factors of Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis is a chronic, debilitating respiratory condition characterized by abnormal dilation and distortion of the large airways or bronchi. It typically results from or is associated with a range of diseases causing chronic airways infection/inflammation.

Here are some of the risk factors for bronchiectasis:

1. Recurrent Respiratory Infections: Frequent lung infections such as pneumonia or tuberculosis can cause bronchiectasis.

2. Immune System Disorders: Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, or ulcerative colitis can lead to the development of bronchiectasis.

3. Genetic Conditions: Conditions like cystic fibrosis, primary immune deficiencies, or Alpha-1 Antitrypsin deficiency can cause bronchiectasis.

4. Impaired Cilia Function: Conditions that damage the tiny hair-like structures in the lungs called cilia can cause bronchiectasis. The cilia are responsible for moving mucus out of the lungs. Any disorder that affects this function can lead to bronchiectasis.

5. Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis (ABPA): This is an allergic reaction to a fungus called aspergillus that can cause inflammation in the bronchi, leading to bronchiectasis.

6. Childhood Factors: Severe untreated childhood lung infections, inhaling foreign body or aspiration of stomach contents can also lead to bronchiectasis.

7. Smoking and Substance Abuse: These are not direct causes, but they can worsen any existing lung damage and make the symptoms of bronchiectasis more severe.

8. Age: Even though it can happen at any age, bronchiectasis is more common in older people who have had more time to develop long-term lung damage.

Remember, the presence of a risk factor doesn’t mean a person will necessarily develop bronchiectasis. However, the more risk factors a person has, the greater their chance of developing the condition.

Signs and Symptoms of Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis is a chronic respiratory condition where the bronchial tubes in the lungs become damaged and abnormally widened. This results in symptoms such as:

1. Chronic cough: This is one of the most common symptoms. The cough is often productive, meaning it brings up mucus (which can be clear, yellow, green or even blood-streaked).

2. Increased mucus production: The damaged bronchial tubes produce excessive amounts of mucus.

3. Breathlessness or difficulty breathing: As the condition progresses, it may become increasingly difficult to breathe, particularly during physical activity.

4. Fatigue: Feeling unusually tired or lacking energy may also be a symptom.

5. Chest pain or discomfort: Some people may experience a sensation of discomfort or heaviness in the chest.

6. Frequent respiratory infections: Individuals with bronchiectasis are more prone to infections like pneumonia.

7. Abnormal sounds or wheezing: A doctor may also hear abnormal sounds, such as wheezing or crackles, during a physical examination of the lungs.

8. Weight loss and lack of appetite: As the body uses more energy to breathe and fight off infections, weight loss may occur.

9. Clubbing: In severe cases, fingers and toes may become wider or rounder than normal, a condition known as clubbing.

It’s important to speak with a healthcare provider if you notice any of these symptoms as they can also be signs of other respiratory conditions. Chronic symptoms require medical attention. Treatment can help manage symptoms, prevent complications, and improve quality of life.

Diagnosis Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis is a chronic condition where the walls of the bronchi in the lungs are thickened from long-term inflammation and infection. This can lead to a buildup of mucus, repeated lung infections, and reduced ability to breathe. People may cough up large amounts of mucus daily and have recurrent bouts of breathing difficulties.

In bronchiectasis, airways become permanently widened (dilated) and lose their elasticity, which allows mucus to pool where bacteria can gather. The recurring or persistent inflammation and infection cause damage to the bronchi, leading to even further widening and softening, interfering with the normal clearing of infections.

Signs and symptoms of bronchiectasis include chronic cough with large amounts of mucus (sputum), breathlessness, chest pain, or coughing up blood. These symptoms typically develop gradually and may occur months or years after the event that causes the bronchiectasis.

Bronchiectasis can be caused by medical conditions that damage the airway walls, such as cystic fibrosis, respiratory infections, and immune system disorders. Sometimes, the cause is not known; this is called idiopathic bronchiectasis.

Diagnosis typically involves imaging tests, like a chest X-ray or CT scan, to check the structure of the lungs and bronchi. Other tests that could help diagnose bronchiectasis include sputum cultures and pulmonary function tests.

It’s important to note that while bronchiectasis is a serious and chronic condition, it can be managed effectively with a combination of medications to thin mucus and control lung infections, chest physical therapy, and lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and ensuring immunizations are up-to-date. In severe cases, surgery may be an option.

Treatment of Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis is a chronic disease of the lungs where the bronchi (airways) get permanently damaged and widened. This causes accumulation of mucus that can lead to persistent coughing, breathing difficulties, and frequent lung infections.

The treatment for Bronchiectasis generally aims at managing symptoms and preventing further damage.

1. Physical Therapy: Chest physiotherapy is a key part of treatment that involves exercises and techniques to help clear mucus from the lungs.

2. Medication:
Antibiotics are prescribed to treat and prevent lung infections.
Medicines to help thin the mucus and help you cough it up (mucolytics) may be used.
Bronchodilators may be used to help open the airways by relaxing the muscles around them.

3. Pulmonary Rehabilitation: This program typically includes exercises, education about lung health, and advice on how to live an active and healthy lifestyle.

4. Vaccines: Regular vaccinations are important to prevent lung infections that can worsen bronchiectasis. Flu and pneumonia vaccines are commonly recommended.

5. Oxygen therapy: In severe cases, where blood oxygen levels are persistently low, oxygen therapy may be needed.

6. Surgery: This is typically used as a last resort in severe cases or when other treatments have not worked. The surgery may involve removing a part of the lung that’s extensively damaged or stops bleeding from the lung.

7. Regular monitoring: Bronchiectasis requires consistent follow-ups with healthcare providers to monitor disease progress and modify treatment as necessary.

Please note that these treatments do not cure bronchiectasis but manage the symptoms, prevent complications, and improve the quality of life. Always consult your healthcare provider to discuss the best treatment options for you.

Medications commonly used for Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis is a condition that causes damage to the bronchi, the airways in the lungs. It can lead to frequent respiratory infections and difficulties breathing. Commonly used medications to treat and manage bronchiectasis include:

1. Antibiotics: These are used to treat or prevent infections that can worsen bronchiectasis. Some frequently used antibiotics include amoxicillin, doxycycline, azithromycin, and levofloxacin. For recurrent or severe infections, long-term low-dose antibiotics may be prescribed.

2. Mucolytics: These help thin and loosen mucus in the airways, making it easier to cough up. A common mucolytic drug is N-acetylcysteine.

3. Bronchodilators: These are often used in people with bronchiectasis to help widen the airways and make breathing easier. Examples include beta2-adrenoreceptor agonists such as salbutamol and anticholinergics such as tiotropium.

4. Steroids: Inhaled corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation and prevent flare-ups. They are often used in conjunction with bronchodilators.

5. PDE4 inhibitors: A newer class of medication, like roflumilast, is sometimes used to decrease inflammation and alter mucus production.

6. Nebulized therapy: For those with more severe or persistent symptoms, medications including antibiotics, mucolytics, and bronchodilators may be delivered via a nebulizer.

Remember, it’s always essential to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new medication as they can provide advice tailored specifically to the individual’s condition and overall health.

Prevention of Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis is a chronic condition where the walls of the bronchi – airways that carry oxygen from your trachea into your lungs – become thickened from inflammation and infection. This can lead to a buildup of mucus that makes the body more susceptible to further lung infections. Below are steps you can take to prevent bronchiectasis or manage the condition:

1. Regular Vaccinations: Get vaccinated on time for influenza and pneumonia since they help prevent lung infections.


2. Smoking Cessation: Avoid smoking cigarettes, as this can damage your lungs, worsening the symptoms of bronchiectasis and making it more likely to develop.

3. Chest Physiotherapy: This is a series of exercises that help in removal of excess mucus from the lungs. Clearing the lungs of mucus is an important part of minimising lung damage and infections.

4. Regular Exercise: Along with chest physiotherapy, engage in regular exercise to help clear mucus from your lungs.

5. Healthy Diet: Maintain a balanced diet as certain vitamins and minerals can help maintain lung health.

6. Avoiding or Controlling Allergies: Allergens can exacerbate symptoms and increase the risk of lung infections. If you are allergic to certain substances, try to avoid them and take the prescribed allergy medications strictly as advised by the doctor.

7. Regular Health Check-ups: Regular monitoring of your health can help identify any complications or infections at early stages.

8. Good Hygiene: Regular hand washing can help prevent infections. Also, avoid close contact with people who have colds or other contagious illnesses.

While there’s no known way to completely prevent bronchiectasis, these steps can keep your lungs as healthy as possible and prevent other infections that could make bronchiectasis worse.

Remember always to consult with your doctor or healthcare professional for personalized advice and treatment options.

FAQ’s about Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis is a long-term condition where the airways of the lungs become abnormally widened, leading to a build-up of excess mucus that can often lead to infection.

1. What is Bronchiectasis?
Bronchiectasis is a chronic condition where the walls of the bronchi are thickened from inflammation and infection. This leads to dilatation and loss of elasticity which results in mucus build-up and recurrent infections.

2. What causes Bronchiectasis?
Bronchiectasis can be caused by severe lung infections, cystic fibrosis, immunodeficiency disorders, and inhaling a foreign object or a toxic substance.

3. What are the symptoms of Bronchiectasis?
Common symptoms are chronic cough with mucus production, wheeziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, and repeated respiratory infections.

4. How is Bronchiectasis diagnosed?
Doctors typically use imaging tests, such as a chest x-ray or CT scan, to diagnose bronchiectasis. Other tests may include sputum cultures, blood tests, or a bronchoscopy.

5. How is Bronchiectasis treated?
Treatments aim to manage symptoms and prevent complications, such as antibiotics for infection, therapies for clearing mucus from the lungs, and in severe cases, surgery may be a solution. Patients may also be advised to get regular vaccinations and physical exercise.

6. Can Bronchiectasis be cured?
Currently, there is no cure for bronchiectasis, but the condition can be managed with treatment to reduce symptoms and improve the quality of life.

7. Is Bronchiectasis life-threatening?
If managed properly, bronchiectasis isn’t typically life-threatening. However, serious complications can arise if the condition is left untreated, such as respiratory failure or heart problems.

8. Can bronchiectasis be prevented?
The most effective way to prevent bronchiectasis is to prevent the lung infections that often lead to it. This includes getting vaccinated against common respiratory pathogens, practicing good hygiene to avoid infections, and managing underlying conditions that may contribute to respiratory infections.

Remember, it’s vitally important to consult with a healthcare professional if you suspect that you or someone else may have bronchiectasis.

Useful links

Bronchiectasis is a chronic condition where the walls of the bronchi are thickened from inflammation and infection. People with bronchiectasis have periodic flare-ups of breathing difficulties, called exacerbations.

To understand bronchiectasis in detail, these links of articles from various scientific journals provide useful insights:


Remember to consider the access and use policies when utilizing these resources for any purpose other than personal reference. For more context, it would be beneficial also to seek advice from healthcare professionals or experts in the field.

Complications of Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis is a chronic respiratory condition marked by abnormal widening or dilation of the bronchial tubes, the major airways in the lungs. When these tubes are damaged and widened, they lose their ability to clear out mucus. This leads to a buildup of mucus that can make the lungs a favourable environment for infections.

Complications of bronchiectasis can include:

1. Recurring lung infections: The presence of a lot of mucus in the bronchial tubes can lead to frequent lung infections and exacerbations of bronchiectasis, which can in turn cause further injury to the lung tissues.

2. Respiratory Failure: In severe cases, bronchiectasis can lead to respiratory failure, which is a life-threatening condition.

3. Coughing Up Blood: Known as hemoptysis, coughing up blood can occur when the condition causes erosion of the walls of the bronchial tubes. This complication can be severe and life-threatening, requiring immediate medical attention.

4. Pleural Diseases: Complications involving the pleura, a thin membrane that lines the outer surface of the lungs and the inside of the chest wall, can occur.

5. Reduced lung function: Over time, bronchiectasis can decrease lung function. This can cause breathing problems, and in severe cases, it can lead to chronic airflow obstruction.

6. Heart problems: In rare and severe cases, bronchiectasis can lead to heart problems due to the low oxygen levels in the blood, condition also known as cor pulmonale.

Remember, each individual may experience complications differently, and the severity can vary greatly from person to person. It is very important to manage bronchiectasis under the care of a healthcare provider. The goal of treatment is to minimize symptoms and to treat infections promptly to minimize lung damage.

Home remedies of Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis is a chronic condition where the walls of the bronchi are thickened from inflammation and infection. It can cause a build up of mucus and make you more susceptible to infection.

While it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider for the treatment of bronchiectasis, here are a few home remedies you can also try:

1. Postural drainage: This is a technique used to help drain excess mucus from the lungs. Postural drainage is done by positioning the body in certain ways to use gravity to assist in mucus clearance.

2. Chest percussion or chest physiotherapy: This involves patting the chest and back to aid in loosening the mucus in the lungs and making it easier to cough up.

3. Breathing exercises and techniques: Lung exercises like deep breathing, controlled coughing, or pursed lip breathing can be helpful. Pulmonary rehabilitation may also be beneficial and includes respiratory therapists guiding patients through exercises and breathing techniques.

4. Staying hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids can help thin out mucus, making it easier to cough it up.

5. Maintaining a healthy diet: Eating a balanced diet can help to enhance your immune system and improve overall health.

6. Regular exercise: Regular physical activity can help strengthen your respiratory muscles, improve lung function and aid in overall health.

7. Avoid smoke and pollutants: Smoking can cause harm to your lungs and worsen the condition. Avoid secondhand smoke and other lung irritants.

Remember, these are just supportive measures you can take at home to deal with bronchiectasis. A comprehensive treatment plan should be discussed with your doctor, which may include medications, physical therapy, and in some severe cases, surgery.

Categorized in:

Lung Health,

Last Update: January 12, 2024