Bronchiectasis: Symptoms and Diagnosis
Posted on February 26, 2020 |
This article was written by Bret Denning, JD
In our previous post, we talked about what bronchiectasis is and who can get it. Now we will review some of the symptoms and how it can be diagnosed.
Symptoms of bronchiectasis may include frequent coughing, sputum (mucus) production, fatigue, repeated chest infections, shortness of breath, unexplained fever, chills, sweats, weight loss and in extreme cases, coughing up blood (hemoptysis). There is often no cure for bronchiectasis, but it can be treated.
Bronchiectasis is often confused with COPD or asthma. In many cases, symptoms are similar, leading to misdiagnosis and ineffective treatment. When a patient is experiencing respiratory infections that are Severe, Persistent, Unusual or Recurrent (frequent) or “SPUR” (as a reminder tip), healthcare providers should consider if it may be bronchiectasis. The provider can identify additional factors, such as family history, that would suggest added testing, and if a patient should be referred to a pulmonary specialist to help diagnose the issue.
Medical tests help determine if you have bronchiectasis and, if you do, what caused it. A computed tomography (CT) scan (which is a special type of X-ray test) is used to diagnose and/or confirm bronchiectasis. A CT scan shows a very detailed picture of your lungs, and your doctor can see the widening of the airways to know how much of your lungs are affected.
Another common test for evaluating bronchiectasis is the pulmonary function test (PFT). A PFT is a breathing test that measures how much air moves in and out of your lungs and how fast it moves. This test helps your doctor understand how well your lungs are working. It may also help determine why you have shortness of breath.
In the next post, we’ll talk about breaking the cycle of infections, and treatments for bronchiectasis. If you’d like to read more in the meantime, visit the Bronchiectasis and NTM Initiative website. Click on BRONCHIECTASIS and read the Bronchiectasis Resources.