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Bronchiectasis is a long-term chest (lung) condition, in which one or more sections of the airways become damaged and inflamed, causing them to become wider than normal. Extra mucus (the thick fluid that keeps your airways moist) is produced and collects in the widened parts of the airways.
This build up of mucus in the airways can become infected by bacteria. Bacterial infection causes further inflammation and damage to the airways and this can cause even more mucus to build up. This creates a 'vicious cycle' of infection, inflammation and damage.
Early management and treatment of bronchiectasis is really important to help break the cycle and prevent further damage.
Process of damage to airways
In bronchiectasis the damage to the airways is most often caused by a severe lung infection, usually during childhood or as a young adult.
Other causes include:
In about half of all people with bronchiectasis the cause of the damage is unknown.
The main symptoms are coughing up mucus (sputum or phlegm) and repeated chest infections. Other symptoms include:
Symptoms may vary from day to day and will depend on the severity of your disease. It is likely that you will have 'good' periods (when you feel well) and periods when your condition deteriorates and your symptoms increase. This is known as an 'exacerbation'.
Sometimes you may notice your symptoms getting worse over a couple of days. This is often referred to as a flare-up or an exacerbation and is usually due to a chest infection. It is important that a chest infection is treated as quickly as possible to prevent further damage to your airways.
Contact your GP as soon as possible if you notice any of the following changes: