Bronchiectasis is a chronic lung disease characterized by permanent dilation of the bronchi and bronchioles, leading to the accumulation of mucus and increased risk of infections. Symptoms include persistent cough with mucus, wheezing, chest pain, and shortness of breath. It can be caused by factors such as infections, genetics, and autoimmune disorders. Treatment includes antibiotics, airway clearance techniques, and in severe cases, surgery.
Bronchiectasis is caused by an infection or a condition that damages the airway walls and impairs their ability to clear mucus. Mucus is a protective substance produced by the airways to remove inhaled particles.
In bronchiectasis, the airways gradually become less effective at clearing mucus, which accumulates and creates a breeding ground for bacteria, resulting in frequent and severe lung infections.
Each infection causes additional damage to the airways, causing them to weaken and restrict the flow of air, making it difficult for vital organs to receive sufficient oxygen.
Bronchiectasis can affect just one section of one of your lungs or many sections of both lungs. It can lead to serious health problems, such as respiratory failure, a collapsed lung, and heart failure. Currently, bronchiectasis has no cure. However, with proper care, most people who have it can enjoy a good quality of life.
Early detection and treatment of bronchiectasis is crucial to prevent further lung damage by addressing bronchiectasis and any underlying causes as soon as possible.
Medical Therapy for Bronchiectasis
The medical therapy for bronchiectasis typically includes the following:
- Antibiotics: to treat and prevent infections
- Mucolytics: to thin and clear mucus from airways
- Bronchodilators: to relax the muscles and improve breathing
- Corticosteroids: to reduce inflammation and swelling
- Pulmonary rehabilitation: to improve lung function and exercise tolerance.
- Oxygen therapy: to treat hypoxemia and improve oxygenation levels
It is important to work with a doctor to develop an individualized treatment plan based on the specific needs and severity of the condition.
Airway Clearance Therapy
The buildup of mucus in the lungs caused by bronchiectasis increases the risk of severe lung infections. A therapy known as airway clearance can help prevent thick mucus from building up. One technique, known as manual chest therapy, or percussion, involves a rhythmic clapping of the chest to break up lung mucus so it becomes easier to cough up.
Doctors may also recommend a mucus-clearing device. Breathing into the device causes a fluttering or vibration of the airways, loosening mucus and making it easier to cough up.
Oxygen concentrator Therapy
If bronchiectasis is severe, it can prevent you from getting enough oxygen. If this occurs, your pulmonologist may recommend oxygen therapy. Oxygen is delivered to the lungs through small plastic tubes that are placed in the nostrils, or through a face mask that fits over the nose and mouth. Oxygen canisters are portable and are often available through medical suppliers.
Doctors may initially prescribe oxygen therapy for use in situations that demand more oxygen, such as exercise or sleep. If symptoms worsen, your doctor may recommend continuous oxygen therapy, which is used around the clock.