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What is Bronchiectasis? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Jen Mallari · Updated Feb 23, 2023

What is Bronchiectasis? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

What Is Bronchiectasis?

Bronchiectasis is a long-term lung condition wherein the bronchi, or the airways in the lungs, are damaged. A damaged airway becomes flabby and scarred. The airways get damaged because of infections and other conditions that end up injuring the surface of the airway’s walls.

This results in a person coughing up mucus, because damage inhibits the removal or clearing out of mucus. The airway produces mucus in order to help remove foreign substances from the body. While mucus has a function in protecting the body, having it clog the airways poses serious health issues.

Once mucus continues to gather in the airways, the growth rate of bacteria, dust, and other small foreign obstacles will increase. A person diagnosed with this lung condition will begin to have difficulty in breathing.

Causes and Risk Factors

Bronchiectasis occurs in the lungs due to a lung condition called cystic fibrosis. This is a condition is rare in the Philippines, but it causes long-lasting lung infections and decreases the ability to breathe properly.

People with the following conditions are more susceptible to acquiring bronchiectasis:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Immunodeficiency
  • Breathing in substances other than air such as particles of food, saliva, liquids, and other things that can cause damage to the lungs.
  • Chronic and inflammatory lung disease
  • Chronic or severe lung infections (tuberculosis, pneumonia, non-tuberculous mycobacteria)

Sometimes, bronchiectasis occurs seemingly without cause. This is what we call as idiopathic bronchiectasis.

Then there are instances wherein bronchiectasis occurs in the lungs due to other complications. Here are some conditions that also cause bronchiectasis:

  • Immunodeficiency disorders
  • Disorders that affect the function of cilia in the airways (the function of a cilia is helping out in clearing mucus from the airways)
  • Connective tissue diseases
  • Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (an allergic reaction to aspergillus, a fungus, that causes swelling in the airways)
  • Ongoing chronic pulmonary aspiration can cause inflammation of the airways
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Sjorgen’s disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Signs and Symptoms

Here are the most common symptoms people with bronchiectasis experience:

  • Coughing up a considerable amount of mucus
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Fevers or chills
  • Frequent shortness of breath
  • Weight loss
  • Clubbing of nails (nails in the fingers or toes thicken and swell)
  • Chest pain or feeling tightness in the chest as a result of having difficulty in breathing
  • Coughing up mucus that has blood on it (hemoptysis)
  • Wheezing sounds when breathing

Most often that not, bronchiectasis starts during childhood. However, it can affect the elderly as well.

Signs and symptoms of bronchiectasis may not show up for months or even years after person has already gone through multiple lung infections.


Repeated lung infections and coughing with a considerable amount of spit will lead your doctor to suspect that you may have bronchiectasis. They will recommend you to undergo a series of tests in order to determine whether or not you have bronchiectasis.

  • CT scan or X-ray. This shows the condition/state of the lungs.
  • Lung function tests. This checks your breathing.
  • Bronchoscopy. A tube that has a light attached to it is inserted either through the nose or mouth in order to see what is inside the lungs.

These tests help identify the condition of a person’s lungs and determine the state of their airways. Based on the results, the doctors will know what treatments to give for any underlying causes that they may see.


Doctors will prescribe medications to help treat flare-ups and infections. These medications will be coupled with airway clearance techniques, hydration, and chest physical therapy. Those with low oxygen levels may undergo oxygen therapy.

The following treatments as as follows:

  • Antibiotics
  • Airway clearing devices
  • Mucus thinning medication

For severe cases, surgery may be required if the bronchiectasis is focused on a portion of a lung, or if there is an occurrence of excessive bleeding.

Key Takeaway

Bronchiectasis is a lung condition that results when an infection or other disorders permanently damage the lungs. Symptoms include coughing up mucus, wheezing while breathing, weight loss, and night sweats. People must be cautious about this lung condition, especially if they are already experiencing symptoms of bronchiectasis. This type of lung condition must be addressed immediately in order to receive the appropriate treatments and avoid worsening of the state of the lungs.

Learn more about Other Respiratory Issues here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jezreel Esguerra, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Jen Mallari · Updated Feb 23, 2023

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