Bronchiectasis can be congenital (meaning that the patient already had it before being born), or caused by lifestyle and environmental factors. Congenital bronchiectasis happens when the lungs develop abnormally in utero. With acquired, or environmental bronchiectasis, damages to the airways can begin during childhood; however, a person might not develop any symptoms until many years later. Some of the most common causes of bronchiectasis are:
What is Bronchiectasis?
ronchiectasis is a disease of the lungs that causes damaged airways to permanently dilate. This leads mucus build up in the patient’s lungs, making it harder to breathe and creating a viable environment for bacteria and infections. Bronchiectasis often happens after repeated damage to the airways and lungs, which may happen from chronic infections or autoimmune diseases. A fairly uncommon disease, there are about 139 cases per 100,000 adults in the United States, and it tends to affect women more often than it does men. Bronchiectasis is a chronic condition, meaning that there is no cure for it, however, there are treatments available that can help patients control and manage their symptoms.
What Causes Bronchiectasis?
How is Bronchiectasis Diagnosed?
When a patient has a persistent cough with large quantities of phlegm (mucus), the doctor may suspect bronchiectasis and order different types of tests. These tests include:
While most patients with bronchiectasis have chronic symptoms, a particularly severe episode is called an exacerbation. During an exacerbation, the patient experiences at least three of the following symptoms:
- Increase in sputum volume
- More breathing difficulty than usual
- Change in sputum color
- Weakness or fatigue
- Coughing up blood (hemoptysis)
- Increased coughing
Tough there is no cure for bronchiectasis, treatments exist to alleviate symptoms and prevent exacerbations. Some of the treatments to prevent exacerbations include:
- Vaccines: doctors may recommend patients to get pneumococcal and flu vaccines in order to protect the lungs against the virus. Any virus that attacks or affects the airways can be extremely dangerous to a patient with bronchiectasis.
- Bronchodilators: these are medications that open the airways to allow breathing. Some bronchodilators that might be prescribed for patients with bronchiectasis include albuterol, formoterol, and levalbuterol.
- Antibiotics: patients with bronchiectasis experience repeated lung infections. A one to two-week antibiotic cycle is the treatment of choice to for these infections. Doctors also prescribe antibiotics during an exacerbation episode.
- Oxygen therapy: can be prescribed during exacerbations or in severe cases of bronchiectasis in order to increase blood oxygen levels.
- Surgery: a doctor may recommend surgery when the bronchiectasis is limited to one part of the airway or if severe bleeding occurs. During surgery, the doctor removes the damaged or affected area of the airway, or in severe cases, the patient may receive a lung transplant.
Bronchiectasis Clinical Trials
- Learn to recognize what might trigger an exacerbation event so you are always prepared and able to act fast.
- Try to quit smoking if you smoke. Smoking affects your lungs and can cause further damage.
- Avoid strong smells and lung irritants such as dust, smoke, and fumes.
- If you are feeling overwhelmed, talk to someone. Talking about your feelings, fears, and concerns with people who are going through the same as you can be very helpful. There are several online and in-person support groups for patients with bronchiectasis.
- Make sure your loved one seeks treatment for his/her bronchiectasis, especially during a severe exacerbation.
- Be patient with your loved one, chronic lung conditions can be very frightening and uncomfortable. Offer to help whenever you can and be understanding of their condition.
- Try to keep the environment around your loved one clean and free of dust and other contaminants that might make their condition worse.
- Patients with chronic lung diseases are more prone to emotional problems such as anxiety and depression. If you think your loved one might be struggling with his/her condition reach out and encourage them to seek expert help.