Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis is a long-term condition affecting the lungs where the bronchial tubes (airways) become damaged and widened.

This damage impairs the clearance of mucus, leading to a cycle of infection, inflammation, and further airway damage. Unlike some other respiratory conditions, the damage in bronchiectasis is permanent.

Bronchiectasis vs Bronchitis

Both conditions have similar symptoms of mucus production from your lungs and coughing, however, bronchiectasis is a permanent condition causing permanent widening of the airways, while bronchitis is only temporary with no lasting damage.

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Causes

Bronchiectasis can be caused by a variety of factors, often involving an initial injury to the airways followed by chronic infection and inflammation. Common causes include:

  • Recurrent lung infections
  • Cystic fibrosis (CF)
  • Immune system disorders
  • Allergic reactions to fungi
  • Inhalation of foreign objects or toxic gases
  • Conditions that affect the cilia (tiny hair-like structures in the airways), impairing mucus clearance

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of bronchiectasis typically involves a combination of the patient’s medical history, physical examinations, and diagnostic tests, such as:

  • Chest X-ray or CT scan, which can reveal the characteristic changes of bronchiectasis
  • Sputum tests, to identify any infectious agents
  • Lung function tests, to assess the degree of airflow obstruction and lung capacity
  • Blood tests, to look for signs of infection or underlying conditions that might contribute to bronchiectasis
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Treatment

While there is no cure for bronchiectasis, treatment aims to manage symptoms, prevent complications, and improve quality of life.

Antibiotics play a crucial role in managing bronchiectasis by treating and preventing bacterial lung infections. Healthcare providers may prescribe antibiotics to control acute infections or recommend prophylactic use to prevent recurrent infections. Regular monitoring and adjustments to antibiotic regimens are essential to address evolving bacterial strains and prevent antibiotic resistance.

Bronchodilators are medications that help open airways, easing breathing difficulties and reducing airway resistance. People with bronchiectasis may use bronchodilators to alleviate symptoms like wheezing and shortness of breath. Short-acting bronchodilators provide quick relief during acute episodes, while long-acting ones offer sustained benefit for daily management.

These techniques assist in clearing mucus from the lungs, preventing mucus buildup and reducing the risk of infections. Chest physiotherapy involves techniques such as percussion and vibration to loosen mucus, while postural drainage uses specific body positions to facilitate mucus drainage. A respiratory therapist often guides people on these techniques, ensuring proper execution for maximum effectiveness.

In severe cases where there is significant impairment of lung function, supplemental oxygen is provided to ensure adequate oxygen levels in the bloodstream. Oxygen therapy can be administered through nasal prongs, masks, or portable devices based on the individual's needs. Continuous monitoring of oxygen levels helps healthcare providers adjust the therapy to meet the changing respiratory needs of the patient.

Comprehensive pulmonary rehabilitation programs may be recommended to improve overall lung function, exercise tolerance, and quality of life. These programs often include exercise training, education on self-management, and psychological support to help individuals cope with the challenges of living with bronchiectasis.

Prevention

Since bronchiectasis is often the result of an infection or other lung damage, prevention strategies focus on reducing the risk of lung infections and managing underlying conditions that could lead to bronchiectasis. These strategies include:

  • Prompt treatment of lung infections
  • Regular vaccinations
  • Avoiding tobacco smoke and other lung irritants
  • Managing underlying conditions like asthma or acid reflux with appropriate treatments
  • Healthy lifestyle of regular physical activity and a balanced diet

Manage your lung health today with North Brisbane Sleep and Thoracic. Our team of lung specialists are dedicated to ensuring you breathe better for longer.

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Manage your lung health today with North Brisbane Sleep and Thoracic. Our team of lung specialists are dedicated to ensure better breathing.

Contact us to book an appointment

Visit us at either our Clayfield or North Lakes location and experience compassionate care in a comfortable environment, tailored to meet your unique needs.

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