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 Symptoms and Diagnosis

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.


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  • I have it. DX via HRCT. My doctors have no idea what it is or how to manage it correctly. They keep telling me I have bronchitis and give me another round of pred and/or antibiotics. I do also have asthma and reversibility post bronchodialtor on PFT, so I am a challenge to them in coming up with an adequete treatment plan.

    I am thankful for the patient education as I try to advocate for myself, but the Doctors really need to be brought up to speed!
    • Hello! That does indeed sound challenging. It is good to hear how you are advocating and educating yourself to increase your knowledge for your health, along with continuing to ask your doctors questions. If you haven't found a bronchiectasis specialist yet for further help, you could try searching for one in your area via this site: Enter your zip code to search.
  • Thank You for the resource @Kristina Lilly : )