Reviewed by Gwen A. Huitt, MD, MS

What is bronchiectasis?

Bronchiectasis (pronounced bron-kee-ek'-tas-is) is a condition of the airways in the lungs. First, let’s look at healthy airways. These airways (bronchial tubes) are tube-like structures that branch from the trachea into the right and left lungs. Air moves in and out of the airways. These airways (bronchial tubes) are tube-like structures that branch from the trachea into the right and left lungs. As the airways branch, like branches on a tree, they get smaller and smaller. The airways are lined with cells that produce mucus. Cilia are hair like structures on these cells that beat together to help clear the mucus and bacteria from the lungs.

When a person has bronchiectasis, the airways are permanently and abnormally widened (dilated). The cells lining the airways become inflamed (swollen). These damaged airways can no longer effectively clear mucous and bacteria from the lung. This can lead to exacerbations of cough, sputum production, and shortness of breath.

Bronchiectasis is caused by one or more infectious or inflammatory insults to the lungs. People with bronchiectasis are more likely to get lung infections. Each lung infection can make the bronchiectasis worse. Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment of bronchiectasis is very important.

 

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