Bronchiectasis is when the walls of your bronchi, the tubes that carry air into and out of your lungs, become thickened and damaged.

This makes it harder to breathe. You could have flare-ups of severe breathing problems (your doctor may call them exacerbations) from time to time.

Bronchiectasis is a long-term (or chronic) disease that gets worse over time. There’s no cure, but you can live with it for a long time.


Bronchiectasis is caused by two phases of airway damage. In the first phase, the initial damage (or “insult”) is caused by an infection, inflammatory disorder or another condition that affects your lungs. Healthcare providers don’t know the initial cause in up to 40% of people with bronchiectasis.

The first insult makes you more likely to get inflammation and repeated infections that cause further damage to your lungs. This is the second phase, or the “vicious cycle.”


Symptoms of bronchiectasis can take months or even years to develop. Some typical symptoms include:

  • chronic daily cough
  • coughing up blood
  • atypical sounds or wheezing in your chest with breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • coughing up large amounts of thick mucus every day
  • weight loss
  • fatigue
  • change in the structure of your fingernails and toenails, known as clubbing
  • frequent respiratory infections

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should contact a doctor immediately for diagnosis and treatment.


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

Or rate according to pulmonary impairment as for chronic bronchitis (DC 6600).

 Note: An incapacitating episode is one that requires bedrest and treatment by a physician.


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