What are bronchiectasis?
Bronchiectasis is a bronchial disease, that affects the tubes which carry air to the lungs. It is usually due to a previous lung infection during childhood. It is characterised by an increase in the diameter of the lumen of the bronchi which is pathological and remains permanently. The diagnosis is usually based on the patient’s history, symptoms such as chronic cough with abundant sputum, hemoptysis, etc. But it is always documented using computed tomography (HRCT).
What are the causes of bronchiectasis?
These are numerous but the most common are:
- Respiratory Infections
- Bronchial obstruction (e.g. mucus plugs or cancer)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Primary ciliary dyskinesia
- Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis
- Inflammatory bowel diseases
- Connective tissue disorders
What are the symptoms of a patient suffering from bronchiectasis?
Bronchiectasis can be presented with the following symptoms:
- Cough with abundant mucopurulent sputum
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Weight loss
What tests should someone do when suspected of suffering from bronchiectasis?
As mentioned above, the gold standard test for the diagnosis of bronchiectasis is high resolution computer tomography of thorax (HRCT). The chest radiography may sometimes appear normal, thus delaying the diagnosis of bronchiectasis. Additionally, for the documentation for the underlying cause of bronchiectasis, your doctor will prescribe you several other blood tests eg serum immunoglobulins levels, tests for collagen diseases, etc.
What is the treatment for bronchiectasis?
This depends on the underlying cause. It is of course very important to diagnose the disease early so that the patient can receive the appropriate care the soonest possible. Generally, antibiotics and bronchodilators in combination with respiratory physiotherapy play a dominant role in the treatment of bronchiectasis. In addition, the diagnosis of the underlying cause should be made, as there are conditions requiring specific treatment. For example, in immunodeficiencies the patient should receive replacement therapy with immunoglobulins. For more information and treatment options for bronchiectasis, always consult your doctor.