Bronchiectasis is a chronic medical condition characterized by damage to the airways resulting into widening and scarring of the airways. Common presenting symptoms of bronchiectasis include chronic attack of cough with sputum production along with respiratory distress, blood spitting and chest pain. Patients of bronchiectasis suffer from frequent attacks chest infections.
In most of the cases bronchiectasis occur following infections namely tuberculosis, childhood whooping cough disease etc. Other common causes include foreign body, aspiration of toxic gases, immune system diseases, congenital diseases like cystic fibrosis etc.
Bronchiectasis may lead to several complications namely heart failure, respiratory failure, atalectesis (a medical condition in which the lungs are collapsed) etc.
There is no permanent cure available for bronchiectasis. However early diagnosis and management of the underlying causes help to relieve the symptoms in most of the cases enabling the affected person to live normal life to certain extent. Treatment options include antibiotic therapy during episodes of respiratory infections. Amoxicillin is the most commonly sued antibiotic. Bronchodilators and corticosteroids have not shown much benefit. A type of physiotherapy namely airways clearance technique is recommended. Lung transplantation might be considered in severe cases.
The disease is quite common; in the UK it is estimated that 1 in 1000 people suffer from bronchiectasis.
Chronic cough is the principal symptom associated with bronchiectasis. The cough associated with bronchiectasis is typically worsens with lying down posture and also associated with sputum production. The sputum is usually green to yellow in color and about 240 ml in amount. Sometimes coughing up of blood may also occur instead of sputum production. This is known as dry bronchiectasis. Bad breath is quite common in patients of bronchiectasis as it signifies underlying infection.
Other than coughing abnormal chest sounds (crepitations and rhonchi), noisy breathings (wheezing) may also be present. Clubbing as characterized by thickening of the flesh beneath the fingernails and toenails is rarely seen in patients of bronchiectasis.
One of the most important complications of bronchiectasis is repeated episodes of chest infection. As in bronchiectasis the walls of the airways loose elasticity and gradually become flabby resulting into inadequate clearance of mucosal secretions. The role of these mucosal secretions is to tarp the dust particles along with various other infective agents present in the inhaled air and preventing them from reaching the lungs. In bronchiectasis there is collection of mucus in the damaged airways along with infective organisms and dust resulting into respiratory infection and further deterioration of the disease.