Bronchiectasis Symptoms and Diagnosis

What Are the Symptoms of Bronchiectasis?

Symptoms of bronchiectasis can take months or years to develop, and gradually become worse. The two primary symptoms are a daily cough and daily production of mucus (sputum). Other symptoms typically include:

  • Coughing up yellow or green mucus daily
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue, feeling run-down or tired
  • Fevers and/or chills
  • Wheezing or whistling sound while you breathe
  • Coughing up blood or mucus mixed with blood, a condition called hemoptysis
  • Chest pain
  • Clubbing, or the thickening of the skin under fingernails and toenails

How Is Bronchiectasis Diagnosed?

Bronchiectasis is an under-diagnosed condition. with many patients being incorrectly diagnosed with other lung diseases. Early diagnosis is important to prevent further lung damage. If your healthcare provider suspects bronchiectasis, they will want a detailed family history and blood tests to determine whether you may have an underlying condition that could cause bronchiectasis. These blood tests can also tell your healthcare provider if you have low levels of infection-fighting blood cells.

Other assessments that your healthcare team may recommend:

  • A chest X-ray or CT scan are the most common ways to diagnose bronchiectasis. Both tests create detailed images of your lungs, heart or airways.
  • Lung function tests can determine how well your lungs are working.
  • A sputum culture can tell your doctor if bacteria is in your lungs.
  • A sweat test may be ordered to determine if you have cystic fibrosis.

In severe cases when bronchiectasis isn’t responding to treatment, doctors may recommend a bronchoscopy. This flexible, narrow tube is inserted into the airways to help find blockages and sources of infection.

When to See Your Healthcare Provider

If you have not been diagnosed with a respiratory disease and have a daily cough, daily production of mucous, or any respiratory symptoms that concern you.

Once you have been diagnosed with bronchiectasis, you should see your healthcare provider for regularly scheduled visits.

If you are coughing up blood or have severe shortness of breath it is considered a medical emergency and you should seek help immediately.

Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.

Page last updated: June 7, 2024

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Detroit, MI | May 29, 2024