You may be tempted to check which website you are on, but trust us, you are in the right place! It is important that we share information about bronchiectasis with this group because up to 30% of people living with COPD have bronchiectasis, too. For some people, this additional diagnosis can be hard to detect because the symptoms can be similar. People living with bronchiectasis can have symptoms that include a productive cough, shortness of breath, feeling tired, weight loss, and sometimes fever. Knowing that COPD and bronchiectasis have similar symptoms, you might ask yourself, “Could I have bronchiectasis too?”
You may also wonder “If the symptoms are similar, what makes bronchiectasis different than COPD”? Bronchiectasis is different from COPD because COPD usually means the person has swollen or inflamed bronchial tubes (airways in the lungs). Or it could mean some damage has happened to the alveoli (small air sacs in the lungs where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged). But bronchiectasis happens when the bronchial tubes are stretched out. They might even have little pockets where mucus can collect and bacteria gather can cause infections. Another problem is when the cilia (tiny hair-like fibers that line the lung) that help with clearing mucus do not work well. Think of these little cilia as brooms that sweep the mucus up and out of the lungs. When they don’t work well, people with bronchiectasis have a hard time clearing their airways of mucus.
If you worry that your symptoms are not well controlled, talk to your health care team. Getting a diagnosis of bronchiectasis starts by having a CT scan of the chest. This special test takes more detailed pictures of you than an x-ray. Depending on your symptoms you may be asked to have a breathing test called a pulmonary function test (PFT), a sputum test, and possibly have some bloodwork done (to find out why the bronchiectasis occurred). Unfortunately, for 50% of people with bronchiectasis, the cause of their condition may never be known. As with many other chronic lung conditions, the sooner it is found, the better the outcomes are for those that have it. The earlier a person can get treatment for bronchiectasis, the sooner than can feel better.
Bronchiectasis is not a rare disease, and yet there needs to be more knowledge of the condition. The COPD Foundation is working to bring more awareness with a new project that the Bronchiectasis and NTM 360 side of the COPD Foundation is leading along with global partners. We have declared July 1, 2022, World Bronchiectasis Day.
World Bronchiectasis Day aims to raise awareness and lessen the burden that bronchiectasis causes to those that have it. In the coming months, there will be events and other educational offerings to learn more about bronchiectasis. We hope you will support our efforts by sharing your journey with bronchiectasis if you have been diagnosed and/or learning more about bronchiectasis so that you can share this information with others. How can you help us raise awareness for World Bronchiectasis Day?