What is Bronchiectasis?
Bronchiectasis is a long term infection of the large and small airways in the lungs. The cilia that line the bronchial tubes are destroyed, creating a build-up of dust, mucus and bacteria. Excessive amounts of mucus form on the back of the throat, which produces sputum.
The build-up of sputum in the airways attracts bacteria that can live in the sputum and infect the lungs. Infections cause further irreversible damage to the bronchial tubes, and the increased damage makes another infection more likely, leading to a cycle of deterioration.
Bronchiectasis can be inherited, or occur as a result of an infection, or of obstruction in the airways.
How common is Bronchiectasis?
A recent study conducted by the Department of Health suggested that 1 in every 2,000 hospital admissions in the UK were due to bronchiectasis.
In the past, bronchiectasis was a condition that almost always started during childhood. However, with improved hygiene, childhood immunisation and more frequent use of antibiotics, nowadays the condition does not often develop until middle age or later.
What are the symptoms of Bronchiectasis?
Symptoms of bronchiectasis are a persistent cough that brings up a lot of spit or sputum, a wheeze, block or runny nose, chest pain and loss of appetite.
How is Bronchiectasis treated?
There is currently no cure for bronchiectasis, and the damage to the airways is usually permanent. However, early detection and treatment can help prevent the damage to the lungs from getting worse.
Medication is effective at treating the recurrent infections, and there are a number of exercises that can help relieve the symptoms. Chest draining may be necessary, along with physiotherapy and antibiotics. In severe cases, surgery may be needed. Visit the NHS website for more information.
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