Treatment for Bronchiectasis

When you have bronchiectasis, the airways of the lungs become wider than normal. These airways are called bronchi and bronchioles. Over time, the walls of the airways become thick and scarred. The damaged airways can’t clear mucus as well. Because of this, mucus builds up in the airways. This increases the risk for lung infections. Bronchiectasis is a long-term (chronic) condition.

Types of treatment

Treating the cause of bronchiectasis can help prevent more damage. For instance, you may take antibiotic medicine for an infection caused by bacteria.

Bronchiectasis is a chronic condition. So there may be times when you have an infection. With an infection, your symptoms usually get worse. If the infection is caused by a bacteria, you'll be given antibiotics to take by mouth (oral).

If oral antibiotics don't work, or if you have severe symptoms, you may need to stay in the hospital. There you may be given antibiotics by IV (intravenously) into your vein. You'll get other treatments to help with breathing, too. These include oxygen, chest physical therapy, and airway clearance devices. Treatments for other symptoms will also be given.

Surgery is another treatment. Your healthcare provider can tell you more about what kinds of treatment may work best for you.

Possible complications of bronchiectasis

Possible complications of bronchiectasis include:

  • Collapsed lung

  • You don’t have enough oxygen in your blood (respiratory failure)

  • Your heart can’t pump well (heart failure)

Managing bronchiectasis

Your healthcare provider will talk with you about managing your condition. You can take steps to help prevent bronchiectasis from getting worse, such as:

  • Staying away from people with respiratory infections, if possible

  • Keeping your hands clean by washing with soap and water or using antibacterial gel

  • Getting all the vaccines your provider advises

  • Taking antibiotics exactly as prescribed, to treat or to prevent infections

  • Following all instructions to clear mucus from your airways by using special equipment or methods

  • Quitting smoking and staying away from secondhand smoke

Staying healthy with bronchiectasis

You’ll need to take good care of your overall health. Make sure to:

  • Quit smoking, if you smoke. Talk with your healthcare provider. They can advise medicines and programs that can help. Or call the national quit-line at 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) and you'll be connected to your state's quit line to help you reach a counselor. You can also get support online. Visit Smokefree.gov at www.smokefree.gov or Not One Puff Ever at www.nope365.com

  • Make sure you drink a lot of water or other healthy drinks every day.

  • Stay healthy by eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk and foods, and lean meats.

  • Keep active and get exercise.

When to call the healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Breathing problems that don't get better after prescribed treatments

  • Coughing that gets worse after prescribed treatments

  • More mucus

  • Pain, especially when coughing or breathing

  • Mucus that’s dark green or brown, or as advised by your healthcare provider

  • Changes in symptoms or new symptoms

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Wheezing

  • Coughing up blood

  • Unable to talk

  • Feeling confused, faint, or dizzy

  • Not awake or aware (losing consciousness)

  • Chest pain or chest pressure

  • Lips or skin turn blue, purple, or gray

  • Feeling of doom

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