Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia Symptoms and Diagnosis

What Are the Symptoms of Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia?

The symptoms of BPD vary depending on its severity. The most common symptoms of bronchopulmonary dysplasia are:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Labored breathing (drawing in of the lower chest while breathing in)
  • Wheezing (a soft whistling sound as the baby breathes out)
  • The need for continued oxygen therapy after the gestational age of 36 weeks
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Repeated lung infections that may require hospitalization

How Is Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of BPD is based on the clinical evaluation, the degree of prematurity, and the need for oxygen after a certain age.

As infants with BPD usually had oxygen and mechanical ventilation, they are often in the hospital when diagnosed. Regardless, you should contact your pediatrician if:

  • Your infant/child is breathing much faster than usual.
  • The breathing is labored (pulling in of the skin between the ribs, below the chest or at the bottom of the neck just above the chest).
  • There is bluish discoloration around the mouth or lips.
  • There are frequent alarms of the apnea monitor and/or pulse oximeter.

Preventing Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia

Ensuring that your baby is born after the lungs are fully developed is the best prevention for bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Healthy pregnancy practices may increase this likelihood. Simple steps every mother should take are: avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs, eat right, prevent infections and see your doctor regularly.

If there is a risk of delivering your baby prematurely, your doctor may give you injections of a corticosteroid medicine that speeds up the development of the baby’s lung ability to produce surfactant. This will lower the risk of your baby developing respiratory distress syndrome, which can lead to BPD.

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

Page last updated: November 17, 2022

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