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Bronchiectasis involves stretching and enlargement of the breathing tubes in the lungs. The condition starts once the airways are impaired. The damage can be brought about by other health conditions, usually cystic fibrosis or lung infections such as tuberculosis or pneumonia. Other causes include whooping cough and autoimmune conditions such as AIDS.

The impaired airways have difficulty in eliminating the mucus, thus resulting to its buildup. This causes the airways to stretch and lead to swelling and recurrent infections.

What are the indications?

The symptoms tend to vary for each case but the usual ones include the following:

  • Cough that generates mucus
    Chest pain that is abrupt and stabbing. It usually worsens when breathing in and the pain can spread to the shoulder region or abdomen.
  • Chest pain that is abrupt and stabbing. It usually worsens when breathing in and the pain can spread to the shoulder region or abdomen.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Clubbing in which the tips of the fingers and toes become inflamed and the nails obtrude outwards. The nails bind around the toes or fingers and appear as curved, raised and shiny.

How is it diagnosed?

The doctor will diagnose bronchiectasis by performing a physical exam and medical tests. If the individual has daily cough that produces mucus, a chest CT scan might be requested.

Other tests that the doctor might require includes blood tests to check for a present infection, tests to check for bacteria in the mucus and tests to measure the functionality of the lungs.


Bronchiectasis is usually managed using antibiotics, bronchodilators and expectorants to allow easier coughing up of mucus.

The doctor might also guide the individual on airway clearance techniques to help cough up the mucus.

  • For postural drainage, the body is moved in different positions to promote drainage of fluid from the lungs. This helps promote easier breathing and prevent infection.
  • For chest percussion, the chest is clapped with a cupped hand to vibrate the airways in the lungs. This vibration helps the individual cough up the mucus.
  • An airway clearance device might be given to the individual such as a flutter valve to remove mucus from the lungs.

In severe cases of bronchiectasis, oxygen therapy or even surgical intervention is required.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on bronchiectasis is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage respiratory conditions including bronchiectasis by taking a standard first aid course with – First Aid.

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