What is Bronchiectasis?

Bronchiectasis is a medical condition characterized by widened, flabby and scarred airways caused by inflammation. These damaged airways enable the buildup of mucus and bacteria in the lungs, which can cause repeated, serious lung infections and subsequent respiratory failure, atelectasis (lung collapse), and/or heart failure.

Bronchiectasis arises when conditions within the lungs directly injure the walls of the airways, or indirectly result in injury by impacting airway defenses such as the cilia (tiny projections) that line the airways.

How do Lungs Work?

Check out some facts about the lungs and how they work, to properly understand the impact of bronchiectasis on regular lung functioning.

How the lungs work:

  • When you inhale, air containing about 21 percent oxygen enters your respiratory system through your nose.

  • Hairs in your nose provide heat, moisture, and act as a filtration system, thus filtering, warming and humidifying the air as it travels down your trachea (windpipe).

  • Once through the trachea, the warm, filtered air enters your bronchi (airways), and makes its way into your lungs.

  • Within your lungs, the bronchi branch off into smaller airways called bronchioles. At the end of the bronchioles are groups of tiny air sacs called alveoli which have extremely thin walls. The oxygen you inhaled penetrates these walls and enters your bloodstream.  

  • Your lungs protect themselves from potential infection by producing mucus that clears out bacteria-causing particles that enter with the inhaled air. It is important that the lungs push the mucus up the the trachea and out of the body to prevent mucus buildup that would allow stagnant bacteria to flourish.

  • Hair-like structures called cilia work to push mucus up through the various airways; if the cilia become paralyzed or destroyed, they are unable to effectively clear excess mucus.


The Impact of Bronchiectasis on the Lungs

  • Impacted by infection, lifestyle or disease, the airways in your lungs can be significantly damaged, and become widened, collapsible and scarred.

  • The cilia that sweep mucus out of the lungs can become paralyzed or ineffective due to the airways damage.

  • As mucus is not pushed up and out of the lungs, stagnant mucus sits in the lungs and provides a place for bacteria to grow. Ongoing infections increase inflammation, and this increases lung damage.

At Tampa lung specialists, our pulmonologists have significant experience identifying, treating and managing bronchiectasis. We work with our patients to identify the specific cause of their bronchiectasis, and to develop a treatment plan that minimizes symptoms and treats any underlying conditions.

Who does Bronchiectasis impact?

Bronchiectasis is common among:

  • Older individuals: Prevalence increases with age and peaks around ages 80–84 years

  • Women: Prevalence is higher among women

  • Asian populations

  • People who have conditions that damage the lungs or increase the risk of lung infections

  • People with immunodeficiency disorders, such as HIV and AIDS

  • Among children, bronchiectasis tends to impact boys more than girls



  • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) in non smokers

  • P. aeruginosa (bacterium) or NTM (Nontuberculous Mycobacteria) in sputum

  • Dyspnea: shortness of breath

  • Wheezing

  • Clubbing: flesh under fingernails and toenails gets thicker

  • Pleuritic chest pain: chest pain that worsens when you breathe, cough or sneeze

Bronchiectasis Symptoms

  • Chronic cough

  • Frequent sputum production

  • Frequent respiratory infections

  • Rhinosinusitis: sinus inflammation

  • Fatigue

  • Hemoptysis: coughing up blood

  • Difficult-to-treat asthma


Experiencing any of these Pulmonary symptoms? lET US KNOW.

How to Diagnose Bronchiectasis

To determine whether your symptoms are indicative of bronchiectasis, your doctor may perform the following tests:

Treatments for Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis Treatments Include:


  • Airway clearance technique

  • Physical therapy

  • Pulmonary rehabilitation

Supportive care:

  • Oxygen therapy


  • Bronchodilator

  • Steroids

  • Antibiotic


  • Quitting smoking

  • Pneumococcal vaccine

  • Chest CT Scan: Precise pictures of your airways and lungs can show the exact locations and extent of lung damage.

  • Chest X Ray: Images of the structures in your chest can indicate areas of abnormal, thickened or irregular airway walls.

  • Blood tests: Such tests are conducted to identify any underlying conditions that may cause bronchiectasis.

  • Sputum culture: Lab tests on a sample of your sputum will check for bacteria or fungi.

  • Lung function tests: These tests measure how air intake, inhalation speed, and determine how well your lungs deliver oxygen to your blood.

  • Cystic fibrosis tests

  • Bronchoscopy: A flexible tube with a light at the end is inserted through the nose or mouth, and moved into the airways. Video imagery can show any source of bleeding, or locate a blockage.


At the moment, there is no cure for bronchiectasis. However, partnership with a pulmonary specialist, and the development of a proper care and treatment plan, can allow most bronchiectasis sufferers to enjoy a good quality of life.

It is important to consult a pulmonologist if you experience any of the symptoms listed above. The sooner you confirm a bronchiectasis diagnosis, the sooner you can work with a pulmonary specialist to develop a treatment plan that can control your bronchiectasis and treat any underlying conditions, preventing further lung damage.

Surgical intervention: For some patients, comprehensive management may fail to improve their condition. If the bronchiectasis is localized, surgical intervention is an option.

Contact Tampa Lung Specialists if you are concerned that you have any of the outlined bronchiectasis symptoms.