Symptoms and Signs of Bronchiectasis

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/2/2022

Doctor's Notes on Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis is a term that describes damage to the walls of the bronchial tubes with loss of the smooth muscle and elasticity of the bronchi. Signs and symptoms of bronchiectasis include the following:

  • increased sputum production,
  • bloody sputum,
  • shortness of breath,
  • wheezing,
  • weakness, and
  • fatigue.

The sputum can be clear, bloody, and/or green or yellow.

Causes of bronchiectasis maybe congenital or acquired. Congenital causes of bronchiectasis may include cystic fibrosis, alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, Kartagener syndrome (sinusitis, bronchiectasis, dextrocardia, and infertility), and Young's syndrome (like Kartagener syndrome without dextrocardia). Acquired causes may include the following: recurrent infections, aspiration of foreign bodies, inhaling toxic gases like chlorine or ammonia, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, tuberculosis, and inflammatory bowel diseases (ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease).

What Are the Treatments for Bronchiectasis?

Treatment goals for bronchiectasis is to prevent infections and/or recurring symptom development. Treatments include the following:

  • Oxygen therapy
  • Antibiotics: oral or IV
  • Mucus thinning (medicine delivered through a nebulizer)
  • Airway clearance devices (breaks up lung mucus and helps the person to drain out obstructive mucus)
    • Oscillating positive expiratory pressure
    • Interpulmonary percussive ventilation
    • Postural drainage
    • Chest physical therapy
    • Surgery: removal of obstructed section of lung

Your doctor can design a treatment plan for your individual situation.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.