Help me understand my bronchiecstasis diagnosis
October 11, 2014 9:04 AM   Subscribe

I have been sick for a while now, first with pertussis and now a bad case of bronchitis. My doctors have been trying to figure out if an underlying problem is keeping me so sick. In going back over my chest x-rays from a few months ago, my primary care doctor found bronchiecstasis. I had a CT scan yesterday, though I won’t meet with my doctor to discuss the results until Monday. I’ve been reading online about bronchiecstasis, but the articles haven’t helped me to figure out what bronchiecstasis means for my life now.

What can I most likely expect now, both in terms of how treatment will affect my life and how the flare-ups caused by other disease will?

Is there anything that has been helpful to you that a Western doctor may not know to mention? It can be anything from a lifestyle change to diet to supplements to acupuncture.

How does climate affect it? I ask because I live in Wisconsin, where we have long, cold winters. I have been thinking of moving anyway, and I would consider a different climate if that would help me feel more okay again.
posted by mermaidcafe to Health & Fitness (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have only second-hand experience with bronchiecstasis as my Chicago-based mother had it for years before she died (at age 90). What I can tell you is that a good pulmonologist makes all the difference in the world. Her first pulmonologist had her on a very intricate and life-restricting treatment plan that barely kept the condition under control. She switched to a different doctor who implemented a very simple treatment plan that, in her words, gave her her life back. Memail me if you'd like the doc's name.
posted by DrGail at 9:31 AM on October 11, 2014

Bronchiectasis means that the airways have widened, losing their ability to move mucus out of the affected area. This normally occurs following bad or recurrent chest infections.

What this means is there is a risk of recurrent infections because mucus that doesn't move tend to get infected easily.

No one other than your doctor can really say what this means for you in the long run as it depends on the severity of the condition. Part of the answer lies in your CT scan results. The CT scan will also rule out other concurrent lung conditions.

A physiotherapist can help by teaching you some manoeuvres to help move the mucus out of the lungs, reducing your risk of catching an infection. There are also very safe medications that you can take to thin out the phlegm, helping you to cough it out more easily.

Climate does affect mucus production, so yes, long, cold winters can increase your chance of getting ill. Try using a humidifier and keep the temperature comfortable in the room during winter.

Also, talk to your doctor about regular influenza (yearly) and pneumococcal (5 yearly) vaccinations.
posted by ianK at 9:35 AM on October 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

From Wikipedia:

Bronchiectasis may result from a number of infective and acquired causes, including pneumonia, tuberculosis, immune system problems, and cystic fibrosis.[2][3] Cystic fibrosis eventually results in severe bronchiectasis in nearly all cases.[4] The cause in 10-50% of those without cystic fibrosis is unknown. The mechanism of disease is breakdown of the airways due to an excessive inflammatory response. Involved bronchi become enlarged and thus less able to clear secretions.

I have a form of cystic fibrosis. I have never been diagnosed with bronchiectasis and I have reversed some of the known lung damage I once had. I breathe a lot better these days.

Wikipedia (above) indicates that inflammation is the causative mechanism for this condition. I did a lot of reading and concluded that inflammation is (mostly) caused by excess acidity. Among other things, I changed my diet to eat a less acid diet. There are a number of books available on the fact that the typical American diet is inflammatory/too acid. Some studies also show that antibiotic resistance is promoted by high acidity. Some biofilms can be broken up by treating them from that angle.

Is there anything that has been helpful to you that a Western doctor may not know to mention? It can be anything from a lifestyle change to diet to supplements to acupuncture.

I was a military wife and I have lived all over the U.S. (Georgia, Texas, Kansas, Washington state, various parts of California) and also in Germany. I always do better in the Rockies or west of there. I have no desire to ever live east of the Rockies again. The generally dryer climate on the West Coast is a godsend for me.

I also took a lot of supplements for a time and made a lot of dietary changes. Salt is a major component of mucus and a high salt (plus high fat and high calorie) diet is routinely recommended by doctors for people with CF, but the standard advice is basically a junk food diet (because junk food is high in salt and fat and calories). I went the opposite direction and focused on eating a higher quality diet. A key component of that was to consume better quality salt than your standard table salt. So I use sea salt, kosher salt or canning/pickling salt.

I did a bunch of other stuff, but, short answer, yes, eating better has helped my lung problems.
posted by Michele in California at 10:15 AM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a pulmonologist. In my experience, most primary care doctors neither understand what bronchiectasis is or know how to diagnose it. Chest x-rays are frankly quite poor at diagnosing any structural lung disease, and I would take any x-ray reports with more than a grain of salt. So until you get the results of your CT, and likely a diagnostic opinion from an expert, I wouldn't expend energy reading or worrying about a diagnosis you may not have.
posted by drpynchon at 6:53 PM on October 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

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