Bronchiectasis is a chronic lung condition where the bronchi get damaged. Bronchi are the tubes carrying air to and from your lungs. When they get damaged, they cannot clear the mucus normally, thus making it a struggle to breathe normally. This causes bacteria to grow in the mucus, which can result in inflammation.
You will experience a chronic cough as your body attempts to expel the infected mucus, which keeps building. Though bronchiectasis cannot be cured, it can be managed with the help of accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Bronchiectasis Vs Bronchitis
These two conditions manifest with similar symptoms, such as a chronic cough and mucus build-up in the lungs. Bronchiectasis has a more permanent effect on the bronchi leading to widening that cannot be reversed. On the other hand, bronchitis does not cause permanent damage and can be cured.
These three types of bronchiectasis
- Cylindrical bronchiectasis is a milder form of the condition, which gets triggered when the normal tapering of the airways starts to get distorted.
- Saccular bronchiectasis is when those affected start coughing up sputum – a mix of saliva and mucus – due to further distortion of the airway wall.
- Cystic bronchiectasis affects those living with cystic fibrosis. In this genetic condition, mucus continually builds up in the patient’s lungs leading them to become clogged and creating the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive. This results in the bronchi getting further damaged due to inflammation, leading to lung infections.
Common bronchiectasis symptoms comprise:
- Chronic cough accompanied by mucus and, at times, blood
- Higher susceptibility to the common cold
- Mucus accompanied by a foul odour
- Nail clubbing (when the fingertips get swollen and the nails become curved)
- Fever and chills
- Repeated episodes of heavy sweating during night sleep
There are two phases of damage to the bronchi that result in Bronchiectasis. Phase one is caused by bacterial infection and inflammatory disorders in the lungs. As the infections further damage the bronchi, it results in bronchiectasis.
Bronchiectasis causes include:
- Cystic fibrosis, tuberculosis, autoimmune disorders like lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
- Mucus build-up when a foreign body, tumour, or lymph node blocks the bronchi.
- Immunity-decreasing conditions such as HIV and events like organ transplants increase the risks of infection.
- Scarring of the tissue of the airways due to radiation.
- Your medical practitioner will recommend that a chest x-ray and computed tomography scan (CT) be performed. A CT offers clear images of the airways and lungs, detecting damage. Based on the extent of damage, the causes will need to be determined.
- Your doctor may recommend additional blood tests to determine immunoglobulin levels, sputum culture tests, and complete blood count.
- A bronchoscopy may also be performed to get a closer look inside the airways; a thin, flexible tube known as a bronchoscope is inserted inside the airways to get a complete picture of the damage.
Based on the findings of the bronchiectasis diagnosis, a course of treatment will be prescribed.
There is no cure for bronchiectasis. However, the condition can be managed through various treatments. Here are some bronchiectasis treatment approaches:
- Since other conditions or disorders cause bronchiectasis, your medical practitioner may treat those specific conditions first.
- Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to ease fight infections by reducing inflammations and expectorants to help thin the mucus to help you cough it up.
- They may recommend using an inhaler or nebulizer to open the airways.
- Another form of bronchiectasis treatment is chest physiotherapy, such as a high-frequency chest wall oscillation vest, which helps to dislodge the mucus from the walls of the bronchial tubes.
- A respiratory therapist can demonstrate non-invasive techniques that help you cough up the mucus.
- In severe cases where there is bleeding in the lungs, you may need surgery, including a lung transplant.
- It would be best to make lifestyle changes to build immunity and strength alongside other treatments.
If not diagnosed and treated promptly, bronchiectasis complications can lead to respiratory failure, lung abscess, and pneumonia. It can also result in rarer conditions such as empyema (accumulation of pus), septicemia (blood poisoning by bacteria), and cor pulmonale (heart failure).
When symptoms such as cough persist for too long, it is important not to ignore them. The condition can deteriorate quickly if not treated promptly.
Secondly, visiting a seasoned chest specialist is key to an accurate diagnosis. Since many chest-related conditions mirror each other with similar symptoms, accurate diagnosis is key to treating the condition and helping you manage it better to lead a fully functional life.
To avail of accurate and hassle-free diagnosis and treatment of bronchiectasis, you can visit the CK Birla Hospital or book an appointment with our team of experts online. Our highly-qualified healthcare professionals are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and cutting-edge technologies to determine the root cause of various conditions and offer the right course of treatment.