What is bronchiectasis?
This is a condition where the bronchial airways in your lungs have permanently thickened and widened causing permanent damage. This makes you more susceptible to infections as excess mucus builds up within the airways. This is a long-term condition and symptoms need to be carefully managed to enable you to live a normal and active life.
How is bronchiectasis diagnosed?
When you first see your doctor about this condition, they will ask you about previous chest and lung infections.
The only way to guarantee a correct diagnosis is by testing. Some of the tests your doctor will want to carry out include:
- Blood tests
- Chest CT scan
- Sputum culture
- Lung function tests
There are many ways to treat bronchiectasis and your doctor will select the most appropriate one for you based on your medical history and test results.
What is the cause of bronchiectasis?
There are two different kinds of bronchiectasis. One is caused by a genetic disorder called cystic fibrosis; the other is idiopathic bronchiectasis where there is no known cause.
Suggested causes may include:
- Lung damage secondary to an old chest infection
- Low immune system
- Inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease
What is the best treatment for bronchiectasis?
There are many ways to treat this condition. Your doctor will make an informed decision based on all your results:
- Antibiotics – normally the first line of attack.
- Macrolides – a different type of antibiotic that not only helps kill off bacteria but also reduces inflammation in your airways
- Mucolytics – this medication will help thin your mucus making it less sticky and easier for you to bring up yourself
- Airway Clearance Devices – to help clear out your mucus
- Oxygen therapy
- Surgery – if you get a blockage in your airway you may need a bronchoscopy procedure
Can physiotherapy help bronchiectasis?
Yes. Physiotherapists can help speed up your recovery by helping to improve your breathing, clearing phlegm, and helping you get back on your feet quickly.
A physiotherapist can help with:
- Specialised manual chest techniques called percussion and vibrations to help loosen your mucus
- General mobility and exercise programmes to help with endurance
- Special breathing and coughing exercises to help improve your lung ventilation
- Help you and your family understand your illness
- Show you positioning techniques to help you clear your phlegm
- Suggest some gadgets that could help you loosen your mucus
Can you live a good life with bronchiectasis?
This is a chronic disease which will develop slowly over a period of time. You cannot be cured from it, but it is possible to slow the progression and preserve your lung function. Self-management is possible by:
- Using your inhalers as prescribed by your doctor
- Clearing your mucus regularly
- Keeping yourself hydrated with a good daily diet
- Exercising regularly
One of the best ways to manage your condition and stay well for longer is by strengthening your overall health with diet and exercise. Your physiotherapist will be able to advise you on the best exercises to be performed alone at home.
What you eat is also very important for your well-being. Seeing a nutritionist can be really beneficial in helping you to improve your diet and maintain a healthy weight.