I was diagsnosed with Mild Basal Bronchiectasis in 2007. It took me a lot of energy to try to get anwers for my increasing shortness of breath and a very competent and caring doctor in a specialised hospital for heart and lung diseases and the help of my gp, to try to find out what was happening to me and why my lungs felt as it they were feeling up with mucus all the time. After a cat scan, it all became clear. Because if you have a lifetime history of lung problems, you know the changes in your lung pattern and you know when things are not right … so it is up to the medical world to find and give you answers.
Bronchiectasis is a very rare and chronic condition and it belongs to the group of diseases identified as chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) in which mucus accumulates and sticks in the airways of the lungs, called bronchi. As a result, the airways become infected and inflamed, eventually leading to enlarged and weak airways, which allows more mucus and bacteria to accumulate. Eventually, it leads to the destruction of the airways.
Origin of my bronchiectasis
I had it at birth which is a probable possibily according to the doctors. The other been a long life of repeated bronchitis and at times, a pneumonia which may have dramatically impaired my lungs.
Lungs with bronchiectasis
First, inflammation occurs in the walls of the airways . This inflammation causes injury to the airways. The resulting loss of the normal defenses in the lungs leads to the loss of the ability to clear mucus. This makes the airways susceptible to infections. Repeated lung infections can worsen the damage to the airway walls.
Among the three types of bronchiectasis I have :
Cylindrical bronchiectasis and it refers to mildly inflamed bronchi that fail to taper distally. It’s located at the base of both my lungs though the disease is starting a bit everywhere.
Symptoms of bronchiectasis:
– a cough and often raising mucus from the lungs. With infections the mucus may be discolored, foul smelling and may contain blood. Chronic productive cough is prominent, occurring in up to 90% of patients with bronchiectasis.
– Fatigue, shortness of breath and abnormal chest sounds can also occur.
Some people with bronchiectasis also have chronic sinusitis. This requires further evaluation since bronchiectasis and sinusitis may be due to other diseases. If left untreated, symptoms of bronchiectasis may progress. Further symptoms may include increasing shortness of breath, worsening quality of life and even heart failure.
Diagnosis of bronchiectasis
– A complete medical history and physical examination.
– Breathing tests, called pulmonary function tests. These determine the presence and severity of abnormal airflow out of the lungs.
– A CT scan
– Testing of the mucus to identify any bacteria present
– Checking oxygen levels in the blood
Bronchiectasis is not curable. The goal for treatment is to control secretions and minimize the risk of infections.
Dealing with bronchiectasis as far as medication and treatment go, is pretty much like dealing with asthma:
– Inhaled Short-Acting Bronchodilators; Inhaled Long-Acting Bronchodilators and Inhaled Steroid Medicine
Conditions with bronchiectasis
– Sinusitis which I suffer from, now and then but I must say it is very rare, though I often have sinus pressure.
– Gastroesphageal Reflux for which I have a daily treatment. The backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus. This reflux response may aggravate lung problems. In my case, it always leads to an athma attack.
Techniques to clear the mucus. So far I have not been able to clear the mucus.
If you produce a large amount of mucus, you need to clear it. Chest physiotherapy and postural drainage are used to remove secretions from the lungs. An individual program is usually developed where exercise and breathing techniques to clear the lungs of mucus are taught.
Conditions contributing to Bronchiectasis should be treated
– Prompt removal of any foreign object in the lungs.
– Treatment of immune deficiency disorders with immune globulin if appropriate.
– Treatment of ABPA (allergic bronchpulmonary aspergillosis) with steroids and anti-fungal agents.
– Treatment of chronic infections such as non-tuberculous mycobacteria.
– Surgery is occasionally indicated – usually only if bronchiectasis is very localized in the lung and medical treatment and other therapies are not effective.
– Give up smoking and avoid exposure to passive smoke; second-hand smoke is as bad. I keep repeating it to everyone I know who smokes. I rarely get an approval and a willingness to stop smoking but I am on a mission to help people avoid the condition I have to live with every single day of my life. And I did not smoke, a lot of people around me did since my early childhood. Nowadays it is impossible for me to be in room with smoke or next to a person who smokes. Because I cannot just breathe, it is as simple as that. And I always appreciate when people make an effort around the fact I am ill because I have refused invitations and parties because I just cannot deal with the smoke, it makes me breathless.
– Get a flu shot every year in the fall.
– Get a pneumococcal vaccine every 5 or 6 years
– Exercise regularly because this helps you breathe easier by improving your muscle strength and tone and helps improve clearing the mucus from the airways
– Eat and maintain a well-balanced nutritious diet and drink plenty of fluids and avoid dust and other respiratory irritants.
The complications of bronchiectasis . Among those I have the first three:
– pulmonary hypertension ; ESR raised ; breathlessness; cough ; haemoptysis ; empyema ; respiratory failure ; pneumonia ; digital clubbing ; abnormal sputum ; yellow nails ; short stature ; right ventricular ; hypertrophy and AA amyloidosis.