The official blog of the Lung Institute.
While not as common as other chronic lung diseases, bronchiectasis is a chronic lung disease that damages the airways. In fact, bronchiectasis is categorized as an obstructive lung disease. Other types of obstructive lung disease include COPD, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Even though bronchiectasis isn’t as common, it still affects the lives of many people. We’re here to help you better understand your bronchiectasis treatment options and how they work.
What is Bronchiectasis?
Bronchiectasis is a pulmonary condition that damages the airways. In bronchiectasis, the airways widen and thicken. As a result, the damaged airways allow bacteria and mucus to build-up in the lungs. Commonly, people with bronchiectasis experience frequent infections, blockage and an obstruction of airflow. As the disease progresses, the blockage and frequent infections increase inflammation. Often, an increase in inflammation leads to weakened air passages and difficulty breathing. Eventually, the airways lose their ability to move air in and out of the lungs.
What are the Causes of Bronchiectasis?
It’s common knowledge that smoking causes many types of chronic lung diseases. However, unlike COPD and other types of chronic lung disease, bronchiectasis can develop even if someone has never smoked. In fact, the causes of bronchiectasis are often unassociated with smoking.
There are two main types of bronchiectasis: congenital and non-congenital. In general, people with the congenital form develop the disease because of a birth defect. Examples of congenital bronchiectasis include primary dyskinesia and cystic fibrosis.
However, non-congenital bronchiectasis develops after birth and is not a result of a birth defect. Typically, the non-congenital form occurs because of an injury to the airways or another disease, such as tuberculosis, pneumonia or influenza.
What are the Symptoms of Bronchiectasis?
The symptoms of bronchiectasis can take months or years to develop. The most common symptoms of bronchiectasis include:
- Chronic cough
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Coughing up blood
- Coughing up large amounts of mucus every day
If you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to call your doctor and make an appointment. Having the right diagnosis and treatment plan can help you feel better.
What are the Bronchiectasis Treatment Options?
While there isn’t a cure for bronchiectasis, there are bronchiectasis treatment options to help you manage your condition. Often, the main goals of bronchiectasis treatment options are to help prevent infections, further blockages of the airways and to keep mucus production under control.
Because bronchiectasis may occur as result of other illnesses, childhood immunization can have an impact of reducing the risk of developing the condition as an adult. However, staying immunized as an adult is equally important. Illnesses like the flu and pneumonia are incredibly challenging to cope with. In fact, people with chronic lung diseases are at an increased risk for developing the flu or pneumonia. So, staying vaccinated against these potentially debilitating diseases helps to protect you and your lungs.
Often, bronchiectasis treatment options aim to reduce inflammation, prevent infection and decrease mucus build-up. Doctors may prescribe bronchodilators to help relax and open the airways. This helps people breathe better. Antibiotics can help people with an infection, and mucus thinners may help people thin mucus. When mucus is thinner, it is easier to clear from the lungs.
Other forms of bronchiectasis treatment options include:
- Breathing exercises and chest physiotherapy
- Pulmonary rehabilitation
- Mucus thinning medications
- Oxygen therapy
- Stem cell therapy
In addition to these bronchiectasis treatment options, stem cell therapy has the potential to help promote healing within the lungs. In fact, many people have returned to their favorite activities after stem cell treatment. Stem cell therapy may improve quality of life. If you or a loved one has bronchiectasis, COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or another chronic lung disease and would like to learn more about stem cell treatment options, contact us at (800) 729-3065.