As bronchiectasis inhibits your body’s ability to take in the necessary amounts of oxygen, it becomes more difficult to take part in the activities you love. As the disease progresses, it may even become too difficult to do something as simple as walking without losing your breath.
Like many chronic lung conditions, bronchiectasis has no cure. However, medical treatment can help reduce the severity of its symptoms and assist in slowing the progression of the disease
What are the symptoms of bronchiectasis?
Since bronchiectasis is a chronic disease, its symptoms may develop slowly over time. However, they can also develop quickly, depending on the nature of your condition.
The symptoms of bronchiectasis include the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent coughing that might produce mucus or blood
- Tightness of the chest
- Uncontrollable weight loss
- Clubbing of the fingertips and toes
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should seek medical assistance immediately. Catching the disease in its earlier stages allows more treatment possibilities for controlling the symptoms and slowing its progression.
What are the causes of bronchiectasis?
Bronchiectasis typically occurs as a result of your immune system’s reaction to a perceived threat in your airways. This reaction is usually a form of inflammation.
Inflammation goes away on its own in many cases, but when it does not it can cause permanent damage to the airways of your lungs. The scarring from the inflammation causes your airways to lose elasticity and grow wider, which leads to the mucus buildup.
It is difficult to identify the exact cause of bronchiectasis in many cases, but it is known to have been linked with the following:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Weakened immune system
- Stomach acid in the lungs
- Allergic reaction to spores from a fungus called Aspergillus
Cystic fibrosis is the most common cause of bronchiectasis, but if you don’t have this disease, you should still seek medical attention immediately when you experience the symptoms of bronchiectasis. Ignoring your symptoms can result in further scarring and damage and, potentially, another chronic lung condition.
How is bronchiectasis diagnosed?
Diagnosing your bronchiectasis early is important for developing an effective treatment. As part of your diagnosis, your physician will perform a series of physical tests and examinations. He or she will also review your medical history and discuss your health and wellness and any smoking habits you may have had in your lifetime.
Some of the tests your physician may order to accurately diagnose bronchiectasis include:
- Chest x-ray
- CT scan
- Pulmonary function test
- Sputum test
- Blood-gas analysis
- Listening to the lungs for obstruction
How is bronchiectasis treated?
Since there is no cure for bronchiectasis, treatment aims to slow the disease’s progression and manage the severity of its symptoms. Treatment varies depending on the individual factors, such as the severity of the condition and the patient’s age, overall health and any smoking habits.
If you’re a smoker, the first step of treatment is to quit smoking. Quitting helps reduce the amount of irritation that may be causing your bronchiectasis.
Further treatment options for bronchiectasis may include some of the following:
- Bronchodilators – these are to help your airways relax to help reduce the buildup of mucus and promote clearer breathing
- Medications – some medications for fighting a bacterial infection, thinning mucus and assisting in the coughing up of mucus may be used in your treatment
- Pulmonary rehabilitation – this will include education, exercises and nutritional guidance to help promote your body’s natural ability to breathe
- Oxygen therapy – This includes the use of supplemental oxygen to help you breathe throughout the day
Is bronchiectasis preventable?
In cases of cystic fibrosis and other lung diseases, it is difficult to predict and prevent bronchiectasis.
If you do not smoke or have quit smoking, you greatly reduce your chances of developing bronchiectasis.
Furthermore, if you work in an environment with a lot of dust, chemicals, smoke and asbestos, you need to wear proper safety equipment. Wearing the right equipment and following proper safety measures should help reduce your chances of developing lung disease.
Do you need to speak with a medical professional about your symptoms of bronchiectasis? Contact us today at the Lung Health Institute to schedule your free consultation to discover your treatment options.