By Dr Lucy Burr, Director of Respiratory, Cystic Fibrosis and Sleep Medicine, Mater Health Services, Brisbane Bronchiectasis is characterised by chronic infection in the small…
Although there is no current cure for bronchiectasis, early treatment is important to help improve how you feel, keep the condition well managed, and maintain normal lung function. Many patients manage their symptoms with an airway clearance routine (a cornerstone of bronchiectasis management) along with exercise, without the need for specific medications except during flare-ups.
Airway clearance program
Clearing mucus/sputum from the chest every day is very important to decrease the risk of flare-ups. A physiotherapist trained in airway clearance techniques can help you develop a daily clearance routine. This may potentially include breathing exercises, using positive expiratory pressure devices, inhaling saline via a nebuliser, positioning to open the airways and a prescribed exercise program.
Pulmonary rehab or exercise photoPulmonary rehabilitation is an exercise and education program provided by specially trained health professionals that teaches you the skills needed to manage your symptoms and to stay well and out of hospital.
Staying active and healthy
Pulmonary rehab or exercise photoQuitting smoking, being physically active, eating well, getting plenty of rest, enjoying friends, family and hobbies, practicing relaxation techniques, joining a support group and keeping a positive attitude, are all things you can do to support your health and manage your bronchiectasis.
Ensuring your vaccinations are up-to-date
This may include discussing a seasonal flu vaccination and the pneumonia vaccine with your doctor, in order to help support your immune system.
Accessing emotional support
Anxiety and depression are not uncommon in bronchiectasis and it is important to access support, if needed. Talk to your doctor or contact Lung Foundation Australia for referral to an appropriate support service.
Antibiotics are the most common medicine used to treat infection during flare-ups. These can be taken by mouth, inhaled (nebulised) or given into a vein (intravenously). Nebulised medicines (i.e. nebulised saline (salty water)) may be prescribed to help clear mucus from the airways. Rarely, patients may be prescribed long-term antibiotics to help reduce the number of flare-ups they experience.
Although not common, if your oxygen levels are low, oxygen therapy may be prescribed. Some patients may need continuous oxygen and others may only require oxygen during physical activity (i.e. walking/exercising).
I tend to keep my condition to myself, mainly because you just don’t want people to judge, you don’t want to be treated any differently.Read more