Your airway carries air in and out of your lungs. It also produces a small amount of mucus that is cleared away by cilia (pronounced SILL-e-ah), small hair-like structures, that line the airway. The cilia move in waves to sweep the mucus out of the airway. You simply swallow the mucus without even noticing it.
In a person suffering from bronchiectasis (pronounced brong-kee-ECK-tah-sis), the airway is damaged, inflamed, and stretched, and the cilia is destroyed. That means that the cilia can’t clear away the mucus or any bacteria, dust, or other particles that might have been inhaled. So, it all gathers in some of the distended pockets along the airway, and the mucus becomes infected. This causes the person to cough up large amounts — nearly one cup a day — of foul-smelling yellow or green mucus.
Bronchiectasis is a rare but chronic condition. It belongs to the group of diseases identified as chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) because the excessive mucus accumulation obstructs the airway. The condition is frequently coupled with chronic bronchitis, but each disease needs to be treated individually.
Bronchiectasis most often occurs in children. A person may be born with an abnormality in the airway that results in bronchiectasis, or he or she may have directly damaged the walls of the airway by having:
Symptoms of bronchiectasis typically develop gradually, even over months or years, and they include: