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Bronchiectasis (say "brawn-kee-ECK-tuh-sus") is a lung problem in which the breathing tubes (airways) in the lungs
are stretched and become larger.
It starts when your airways are damaged. The damage may be caused by another health problem—usually cystic fibrosis—or a lung infection such as pneumonia or tuberculosis. Other causes include whooping cough and autoimmune problems, such as AIDS. Bronchiectasis can also be congenital, which means you were born with it.
The damaged airways have a hard time getting rid of mucus (sputum), so the mucus builds up. This causes the airways to stretch and can lead to swelling and repeated infections.
Each time you get an infection, your airways are further damaged. It may become harder and harder to breathe.
Even though there's no cure for the disease, there are things you can do at home to manage your symptoms and live a full life.
Symptoms are different for everyone. But common symptoms include:
Your doctor will diagnose bronchiectasis by giving you a physical exam and doing some medical tests.
If you have a cough every day that produces mucus, your doctor may want to do a chest CT scan. Other tests your doctor may do include blood tests to look for infection, a test to find bacteria in your mucus, and tests to measure how well your lungs are working (lung function).
Bronchiectasis is treated with antibiotics, medicines to relax the airways (bronchodilators), and medicines to make it easier to cough up mucus (expectorants).
Your doctor may teach you airway clearance techniques to help you cough up mucus.
If the bronchiectasis is severe, you may need oxygen therapy or surgery.
Even though there is no cure for bronchiectasis, you can manage it and lead a normal life. To help yourself:
Other Works Consulted
Federico MJ, et al. (2012). Respiratory tract and mediastinum. In WW Hay Jr et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 21st ed., pp. 510–560. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Current as of:
July 18, 2013
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Susanna McColley, MD - Pediatric Pulmonology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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