Symptoms of bronchiectasis may not appear until months or years after the lungs have been damaged. These symptoms usually become more severe as bronchiectasis progresses. It is common for people with bronchiectasis to experience periods during which their symptoms become worse than normal. These episodes are called exacerbations and generally last for several days, but may last for longer.
The most common symptoms of bronchiectasis are:
- A daily cough that persists over several months or even years
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing or a whistling sound when you breathe
- The production of a large amount of sputum (phlegm that is coughed up and spit out; this may contain mucus, pus, or other particles)
- Chest pain
- Clubbing: a condition in which the tissue under the fingernails and toenails is thickened, leading the fingers and toes to appear rounded and club-like
Over time, the symptoms of bronchiectasis may become more severe. More advanced symptoms include:
- Coughing up blood or bloody mucus
- Severe fatigue
Severe bronchiectasis can cause other serious health conditions, such as respiratory failure and atelectasis, a condition in which part of the lungs collapses or fails to inflate properly, causing difficulty breathing.