First Time User? Sign Up Now
First Time User? Enroll now.
Home > Health Library > Bronchiectasis
Bronchiectasis (say "brawn-kee-ECK-tuh-sus") is a lung problem in which the breathing tubes (airways) in the lungs are stretched and become larger.
It starts when your airways are damaged. The damage may be caused by another health problem—usually cystic fibrosis—or a lung infection such as pneumonia or tuberculosis. Other causes include whooping cough and autoimmune problems, such as AIDS. Bronchiectasis can also be congenital, which means you were born with it.
The damaged airways have a hard time getting rid of mucus (sputum), so the mucus builds up. This causes the airways to stretch and can lead to swelling and repeated infections.
Each time you get an infection, your airways are further damaged. It may become harder and harder to breathe.
Even though there's no cure for the disease, there are things you can do at home to manage your symptoms and live a full life.
Symptoms are different for everyone. But common symptoms include:
Your doctor will diagnose bronchiectasis by giving you a physical exam and doing some medical tests.
If you have a cough every day that produces mucus, your doctor may want to do a chest X-ray or a chest CT scan. Other tests your doctor may do include blood tests to look for infection, a test to find bacteria in your mucus, and tests to measure how well your lungs are working (lung function).
Bronchiectasis is treated with antibiotics, medicines to relax the airways (bronchodilators), and medicines to make it easier to cough up mucus (expectorants).
Your doctor may teach you airway clearance techniques to help you cough up mucus.
If the bronchiectasis is severe, you may need oxygen therapy or surgery.
Even though there is no cure for bronchiectasis, you can manage it and lead a normal life. To help yourself:
Other Works Consulted
Federico M, et al. (2014). Respiratory tract and mediastinum. In WW Hay Jr et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 534–587. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Current as of: June 9, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: John Pope MD - PediatricsAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Current as of:
June 9, 2019
Medical Review:John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2019 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
115 Kildaire Park Drive
Cary, NC 27518
781 Avent Ferry Road
REX Healthcare of Holly Springs, Suite 200
Holly Springs, NC 27540
4414 Lake Boone Trail
Raleigh, NC 27607
11081 Forest Pines Drive
Raleigh, NC 27614
UNC REX Healthcare4420 Lake Boone TrailRaleigh, NC 27607, USA919-784-3100
Chosen for Excellence
Co-Worker & Physician Login
UNC Health Talk
Copyright 2019 UNC Health Care. All rights reserved.