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Bronchiectasis Symptoms, Causes & Risk Factors

Some of the signs and symptoms of a bronchiectasis exacerbation are the same as those of acute bronchitis, but some are different.

What Are the Symptoms of Bronchiectasis?

The most common symptoms of bronchiectasis are:

  • Coughing up yellow or green mucus every day
  • Shortness of breath that gets worse during exacerbations
  • Feeling run-down or tired, especially during exacerbations
  • Fevers and/or chills, usually developing during exacerbations
  • Wheezing or a whistling sound while you breathe
  • Coughing up blood or mucus mixed with blood, a condition called hemoptysis

What Causes Bronchiectasis?

Bronchiectasis is often part of a disease that affects the whole body. It is divided into two categories: cystic fibrosis (CF)-bronchiectasis and non-CF bronchiectasis. Bronchiectasis can develop in the following conditions:

  • Humoral immunodeficiency (low levels of infection-fighting proteins in the blood)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
  • Rheumatologic diseases (rheumatoid arthritis and Sjögren’s disease)
  • Alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency (genetic cause of COPD in some people)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD
  • HIV infection
  • Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (a type of allergic lung inflammation)

What Are the Risk Factors for Bronchiectasis?

  • Absent or dysfunctional CFTR protein in bronchial cells in cystic fibrosis (CF)
  • Having a whole-body (systemic) disease associated with bronchiectasis like those mentioned above
  • Chronic or severe lung infections (such as tuberculosis, or TB) that damage the airways

When to See Your Doctor

It is important for patients who have been diagnosed with bronchiectasis to see their doctor for periodic checkups. See these questions to ask your doctor.

    This content was developed in partnership with the CHEST Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians.

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