Symptoms of Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis causes an abnormal enlargement of the airways due to recurrent inflammation and infection. When the airways become enlarged, extra mucus forms in them and pools in the widened areas, leading to infection. Airway obstruction also occurs due to damage to the cilia, the tiny protective hairs responsible for airway clearance. This results in a cycle of repeated inflammation, infection and airway obstruction characteristic of bronchiectasis.

Often developing gradually, symptoms of bronchiectasis may not appear for months or even years after the pre-disposing event. Symptoms of bronciectasis may include:

Chronic Cough With Large Amounts of Thick, Foul-Smelling Sputum

A persistent, long-term cough with copious amounts of thick, purulent sputum are the hallmark symptoms of bronciectasis. With the presence of infection, the mucus is often discolored, foul-smelling and may even contain blood.

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People with bronchiectasis may sometimes cough up small amounts of blood. This term is referred to as hemoptysis. Hemoptysis is due, primarily, to the rupturing of tiny blood vessels near the surface of bronchial tubes. Normally, this bleeding is minor, but occasionally requires emergent care. When hemoptysis does occur, it usually indicates further infection.

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Dyspnea, or shortness of breath, is another common symptom of bronchiectasis which occurs because of the blockage of the airways with mucus. Typically, dyspnea worsens with exertion or exercise.

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Weight Loss

Weight loss may occur because of the added caloric demand made by the body as a result of long-term, excessive coughing. Read more about nutrition and COPD.


Fatigue is an overall feeling of tiredness or lack of energy. In the case of bronchiectasis, one of the causes of fatigue may be lack of sleep caused by long-term excessive coughing. Sometimes, medication side effects can mimic fatigue and are common with antihistamines, blood pressure medicines, sleeping pills, steroids, or diuretics.

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Weakness is a common symptom of many chronic illnesses. The weakness caused by bronchiectasis is basically generalized, meaning it affects the entire body, as opposed to localized weakness, which affects only a specific limb, muscle group, or one side of the body.

Clubbing of the Fingers

Clubbing is a sign of long-term oxygen deprivation and may, or may not, be seen in bronchiectasis. Initially, it manifests itself as sponginess of the nail bed along with loss of the nail-bed's angle, causing the nail bed to curve downward.

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Often described as a whistling sound heard during inhalation or exhalation, wheezing is caused by a narrowing or blockage of the airways. Oftentimes, wheezing can be so prevalent that you can hear it without the assistance of a stethoscope.

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Repeated Lung Infections

Respiratory infections are common in bronchiectasis and may include bacterial infections (such as staphyloccus) fungal infections (such as aspergillosis) mycobacterial infections (such as tuberculosis) or viral infections (such as influenza). If lung infections are treated immediately, bronchiectasis is less likely to occur.

For more information about bronchiectasis symptoms or symptoms related to another illness, visit's Symptom Checker, an interactive tool meant to guide you to a better understanding of your illness. 

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