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Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis is the term given to abnormal dilatation of one or more bronchi, usually following frequent childhood infections, perhaps beginning with an attack of whooping cough or measles and gradually leading to permanent damage of the bronchial tree in adulthood. The disorder has become something of a rarity since the introduction of antibiotics.

Symptoms

The main symptom is a persistent chronic cough which worsens in winter and produces large amounts of green or yellow sputum, often blood-stained. Evident since child­hood, the cough gradually becomes more troublesome over many years, and is often made worse by a change of position and on getting up in the morning. The inflamed and damaged bronchi also cause increased breathlessness, loss of weight and general debility. and repeated lung infections and bad breath are additional symptoms of the disease.

Treatment

Recurrent respiratory infections in childhood, which may lead to bronchiectasis, should be investigated and treated before they have a chance to damage the lungs. If the disorder is diagnosed (usually by X-ray examination and bronchoscopy), the main treatment is the administration of antibiotics at the first sign of infection. In addition, the technique of postural drainage may be indicated, in which the patient is taught how to lie in such a position that the force of gravity drains the bronchial secretions from the lungs. In certain cases surgical removal of the affected parr of the lungs may be advisable. All bronchiectatics should take especial care to avoid catching colds and throat infections, and should also keep away from smoke-filled rooms. As long as their damaged bronchi remain uninfected, people with the condition should be able to live relatively normal lives with few if any symptoms.

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