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Bronchiectasis: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis is a lung disorder characterised by the irreversible damage of large airways called the bronchi resulting in their loss of elasticity and abnormal widening. The bronchi may get damaged in young children due to repeated lung infections but the clinical presentation of bronchiectasis may appear in childhood or even later. It is a serious health problem affecting one or both lungs.

Bronchiectasis: Incidence, age and sex

Bronchiectasis may afflict an individual of any age group starting from infancy to adulthood. However, it is more commonly seen in children and young adults.

Signs and symptoms of bronchiectasis: Diagnosis

Persistent cough with copious, thick sputum is the chief clinical feature encountered in individuals with bronchiectasis. The sputum may be green or white and infrequently blood stained. Other features include wheezing and shortness of breath which may be exacerbated on physical exertion. Loss of weight, fatigue and occasional fever may also be seen in some individuals. Physical examination by a respiratory physician may reveal abnormal lung sounds on auscultation or anaemia. The diagnosis may be confirmed by imaging modalities like x-rays and CT scans. Lung function tests may also help in corroborating the diagnosis.

Causes and prevention of bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis may be either congenital, which is rarely encountered or acquired as a result of repeated lung infections. Congenital bronchiectasis occurs as a result of improper development of the lungs. The most frequent type of bronchiectasis is acquired wherein the abnormally widened and rigid airways predispose to pooling of mucus secretions which may result in repeated respiratory infections. Disorders like cystic fibrosis, tuberculosis, pneumonia, aspergillosis may also increase the chances of development of bronchiectasis. Another disorder namely primary ciliary dyskinesia, an inherited condition, characterised by abnormal movement of hair like small projections present in airways, may also cause bronchiectasis. Some childhood infections like whooping cough and measles have had a high frequency of resulting in bronchiectasis in the past. However, effective vaccination has led to a marked decline in the incidence of such infections in the present times.

Bronchiectasis: Complications

Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment may prevent any complications which may arise from it. A serious condition called atelectasis wherein the lung gets collapsed, may be seen in longstanding, untreated bronchiectasis. Other life-threatening conditions like respiratory failure and heart failure may also be encountered in some individuals.

Bronchiectasis: Treatment

Unfortunately bronchiectasis is an incurable condition. The goal of treatment is providing symptomatic treatment and preventing complications. Medications like antibiotics, bronchodilators, mucolytics may be prescribed. Chest physiotherapy, postural drainage and adequate hydration markedly help in removing the excess secretions from the airways. In severe cases, surgical resection of the affected part of the lung may be required.

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