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Bronchiectasis is a disease in which the large airways in the lungs are damaged. This causes the airways to become permanently wider. These damaged air passages allow bacteria and mucus to build up and pool in your lungs. This results in frequent infections and blockages of the airways. Bronchiectasis can be present at birth, infancy or develop later in life.

What causes bronchiectasis?

Bronchiectasis is often caused by inflammation or infection of the airways that keeps coming back.

Sometimes it begins in childhood after having a severe lung infection or inhaling a foreign object. Breathing in food particles can also lead to this condition. Other causes of bronchiectasis can include:

  • Genetic disease such as cystic fibrosis and primary ciliary dyskinesia.
  • Problems with the immune system (reduced ability to fight infections.
  • Past lung infections.
  • Problems with swallowing causing aspiration of feed or fluids into lungs.

Symptoms of bronchiectasis

Symptoms develop over time. They may occur months or years after the event that causes the bronchiectasis. The most common symptom of bronchiectasis is cough, which is usually productive of sputum (phlegm). Other symptoms may include:

  • Breath odor.
  • Coughing up blood (less common in children).
  • Fatigue.
  • Paleness.
  • Shortness of breath that gets worse with exercise.
  • Weight loss.
  • Wheezing.
  • Low grade fever and night sweats.

Exams and test for bronchiectasis

  • Tests that may be done include:
  • Alpha-1 antirypsin blood test.
  • Chest X-ray.
  • Chest CT.
  • Sputum Culture.
  • Complete blood count (CBC).
  • Genetic testing, including sweat test for cystic fibrosis and tests for other diseases.
  • Pulmonary function tests.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call:

UT Health East Texas Pulmonary Institute at North Campus Tyler at 903-877-7916

UT Health East Texas Pulmonary Institute at S. Fleishel - A department of UT Health Tyler at 903-592-6901

Providers For This Service

Cynthia Chaney, APRN, FNP-BC
Pulmonology (Lung Disease)

G. David Gass, MD
Pulmonology (Lung Disease), Critical Care Medicine