A condition in which some parts of the lungs are damaged, bronchiectasis is a serious health problem. This article will look into its causes and how to deal with it. Here’s what you need to know about bronchiectasis.
What You Need to Know about Bronchiectasis
Bronchiectasis is a condition that arises when the bronchial tubes are widened or damaged.
In most cases, the damage is permanent.
What you need to know about bronchiectasis is that the risk of developing this condition increases as one gets older.
With this long-term condition, the airways of the lungs become widened and that leads to the build-up of excess mucus which, in turn, leads to a higher risk of infection.
Causes of Bronchiectasis
Bronchiectasis can be caused by an infection or some other condition. Sometimes, the cause of the widening of the lungs is not known.
Bronchiectasis can lead to infection and airway blockage.
Keep in mind that your lungs are designed to stay free from germs and infection. It has a sophisticated system of dealing with that. Just think of how you inhale air from the outside which might contain germs and pollution.
If germs go past the initial defenses of the lungs, then there is the immune system will act with white blood cells being sent to the location of the infection. These white blood cells act by releasing chemicals to fight the infection. While those chemicals can kill the germs, they will also cause the surrounding tissues to become inflamed.
In most cases, the inflammation and the expansion of the tissues will be temporary but there are cases when the elastic tissues that are on the airways are destroyed which will cause them to widen. The airway then will become filled with mucus which can lead to persistent smoking and even worse, more infection.
This cycle can be repeated with each infection destroying the elastic tissues. As the airways become more damaged the condition just gets worse and worse.
The progression of the damage varies. For some people, the progression of the damage is gradual and can take a long time. For others, it can take only a short period.
Some of the more common triggers for the condition include:
- Childhood infection
- Allergic conditions
- Cystic fibrosis
- Cilia abnormalities
All these conditions can readily trigger bronchiectasis in some people. For others, however, the underlying cause is not really known.
What you need to know about Bronchiectasis Symptoms
The most common and the most obvious symptom of bronchiectasis is persistent coughing, which can bring up a substantial amount of phlegm. Some patients, on the other hand, will only cough a small amount of phlegm, sometimes with blood
Other symptoms that you can expect include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Joint pains
- Fingertips clubbing
These are just some of the symptoms that you should be on the lookout for.
Diagnosis of Bronchiectasis
If you develop coughing that does not seem to go away, then you should seek medical help immediately so its cause can be determined. Your doctor will want to know how often you cough, whether you are a smoker, and whether you bring up a substantial amount of phlegm.
A doctor will also use a stethoscope to listen to your lungs as you breathe. The lungs of someone suffering from bronchiectasis makes a distinctive noise that doctors can distinguish right away. They will also require you to undergo a X-ray to rule out the possibility of chest cancer which may have some similar symptoms.
Once your doctor thinks you may be suffering from a lung infection, he may require that you phlegm undergo a test to confirm the presence of infection.
Complications of Bronchiectasis
Bronchiectasis can have some serious complications. One such complication is coughing up a considerable amount of blood. This complication can be particularly alarming to someone who has been coughing constantly.
Relatively rare, it occurs when blood vessels which line the airways are suddenly split open. This can be a serious condition that would require immediate medical attention.
Treatment of Bronchiectasis
Unfortunately, bronchiectasis can often cause permanent lung damage. The best thing that one can do is prevent the condition from getting worse.
The treatment is usually a combination of exercises that a patient can do, medication to fight the infection, and devices that can help clear the airway. Surgery can sometimes be performed to treat bronchiectasis but it is rare.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of bronchiectasis, then there are several things that you can do to relieve them:
- If you’re a smoker, then quit
- Get an annual flu vaccine
- Get a vaccine for pneumonia
- Stay hydrated
For the most part, these are simple precautions that you can take against bronchiectasis. There are exercises that you can do that are specifically meant to clear your lungs of phlegm. Doing this can make breathing easier.
Another thing that can be done to clear the airway is to change one’s posture. This involves leaning down while a physiotherapist starts vibrating your lungs to clear the phlegm.
Medications can be prescribed by doctors to make help breathing easier.
Bronchiectasis can be a serious condition that can greatly affect a person’s quality of life. Unfortunately, there is still no treatment that can completely reverse its effects. The good news is that there are ways that further damage can be prevented. What’s important is that the disease can be detected as early as possible.
Learn more about bronchiectasis, here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.