Bronchiectasis (cont.)

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What causes bronchiectasis?

Bronchiectasis is caused by damage to the larger airway walls destroying the muscles and elastic tissue layers that allow normal bronchial tubes to contract. This damage decreases the ability of the lung to move and clear secretions that are normally produced in the lung. These pooled secretions cause increased potential for infection like pneumonia and bronchitis, which causes further damage to the bronchial walls. As mentioned above, this results in a vicious cycle in which increased damage leads to increased infection, leading to further damage.

There are three primary types of bronchiectasis. These types are described by their anatomical appearance.

  1. Cylindrical bronchiectasis is the mildest form and reflects the loss of the normal tapering of the airways. The symptoms may be quite mild, like a chronic cough, and usually are discovered on CT scans of the chest.
  2. Saccular bronchiectasis is more severe, with further distortion of the airway wall and symptomatically, affected persons produce more sputum.
  3. Cystic bronchiectasis is the most severe form of bronchiectasis, and fortunately it is the least common form. This often occurred in the pre-antibiotic era when an infection would run its course and the patient would survive with residual lung damage. These patients often would have a chronic productive cough, bringing up a cup or more of discolored mucus each day.

Bronchiectasis also may be congenital or acquired.

Congenital causes of bronchiectasis

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Kartagener syndrome
  • Young's syndrome
  • Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency

Acquired causes of bronchiectasis

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/11/2013

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