Treatment for bronchiectasis focuses on addressing any underlying cause of the condition, removing mucus from the lungs, and preventing complications.
The following treatments may be used alone or in combination in treating bronchiectasis.
Proper hydration is very important, as it makes the mucus in the lungs easier to cough up. The symptoms of bronchiectasis may make it difficult to eat enough, so your pulmonologist may recommend an eating plan that includes:
- Smaller, more frequent meals
- Eating after resting for a period of time
- Vitamins or other nutritional supplements
Physical activity can help to strengthen the muscles used in breathing and improve your overall wellness. Your pulmonologist can help you determine what kinds of activity are safe for you.
In addition, your pulmonologist might recommend chest physical therapy (CPT). This usually involves a therapist or trained family member or friend pounding on your chest and back repeatedly to help loosen mucus in the lungs, making it easier to cough up. There are also various devices available to be used for chest physical therapy, but it's unclear if they are as effective as conventional CPT.
There are several types of medication that help to treat bronchiectasis:
- Antibiotics — Bronchiectasis is often caused or accompanied by infection of the airways. Antibiotics treat these infections, and may be prescribed to be taken by mouth, inhaled or administered intravenously.
- Macrolides — These are antibiotics that reduce inflammation in the airways in addition to killing certain types of bacteria. Macrolides may be given for long-term use over several months. They may be very beneficial for some people but may also cause serious side effects.
- Mucus-thinning medication — This medication is most often inhaled using a nebulizer. It helps to dissolve mucus in the airways so that it can be more easily coughed up.
- Bronchodilators — Relaxing the muscles around your airways, this medication helps to open the airways and makes breathing easier. Bronchodilators can be short-acting or long-acting.
- Short-acting bronchodilators should be used on an as-needed basis and last for about 4–6 hours.
- Long-acting bronchodilators are used every day and last for 12 hours or more.
- Inhaled corticosteroid medications — These can reduce inflammation of the airways and help prevent exacerbations (flare-ups). However, they may have side effects that include bruising, oral infections and hoarseness.
Surgery and Other Treatments
Though surgery may provide benefits to people with bronchiectasis, it's usually a last resort for people who have:
- More severe symptoms that are not improved with other treatments
- Damage to only one part of their lungs
Most often, surgical treatment of bronchiectasis involves removing the damaged portion of the lung.
Doctors may also recommend oxygen therapy. Oxygen therapy can help people with bronchiectasis who have low levels of oxygen in their blood to breathe better. The treatment involves administering oxygen either through a mask or through 2 small tubes that enter the nose (nasal prongs). Some people who receive oxygen therapy need it all the time, while others only need it at certain times.
Ready for an Appointment?
If you need to be evaluated for signs or symptoms of bronchiectasis, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.