What is bronchiectasis?

Bronchiectasis is a lung disease that usually results from an infection or other condition that injures the walls of the airways in your lungs. This injury is the beginning of a cycle in which your airways slowly lose their ability to clear out mucus, resulting in mucus buildup and an environment in which bacteria can grow. This leads to repeated serious lung infections that cause more damage to your airways. Over time, the airways become stretched out, flabby and scarred and unable to move air in and out. Bronchiectasis usually begins in childhood, but symptoms may not appear until months or even years after you have started having repeated lung infections.


The most common signs and symptoms are:

  • Daily cough, over months or years

  • Daily production of large amounts of mucus, or phlegm

  • Repeated lung infections

  • Shortness of breath

  • Wheezing

  • Chest pain

Over time, more serious symptoms may develop, including:

  • Coughing up blood or bloody mucus

  • Weight loss

  • Fatigue

  • Sinus drainage

Bronchiectasis can also lead to other serious health conditions, including collapsed lung, heart failure and brain abscess.


There is no one test for bronchiectasis. Even in its later stages, the signs of the disease are similar to those of other conditions, so those conditions must be ruled out.The most commonly used tests to diagnose bronchiectasis are:

  • Chest X-ray of the heart and lungs to detect any signs of infection and scarring of the airway walls

  • CT scan to provide a computer-generated image of the airways and other tissue in the lungs

  • Blood tests to detect a disease or condition that can lead to bronchiectasis (They can also reveal an infection or low levels of certain infection-fighting blood cells.)

  • Sputum culture to detect bacteria, fungi or tuberculosis

  • Lung function tests to measure how well the lungs move air in and out

  • Sweat test or other tests for cystic fibrosis


The mainstays of treatment for bronchiectasis are:

  • Medications, especially antibiotics

  • Chest physical therapy


Request an Appointment

Find a Doctor
Find a Doctor