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About BEWhen it comes to bronchiectasis, knowledge is power.

What is BE?

Bronchiectasis (BE) is a disease where your airways become permanently widened, making it harder for you to clear mucus and bacteria. It’s a chronic and progressive disease, which means it can affect you long-term and may get worse over time, causing lung damage.

An example of a CT scan showing BE in the lungs

An example of a CT scan showing BE in the lungs

An interconnected cycle contributes to the development of BE

The main factors include inflammation, difficulty clearing mucus from the lungs, lung infection, and lung damage.

Each factor can lead to the worsening of the others. See how in the diagram below.

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Bronchiectasis (BE) interconnected factors—lung inflammation
Bronchiectasis (BE) interconnected factors—difficulty clearing mucus
Bronchiectasis (BE) interconnected factors—lung damage
Bronchiectasis (BE) interconnected factors—lung infection
Bronchiectasis (BE) inflammation icon

Lung Inflammation

As your body’s immune system keeps trying to clear the infection from your lungs, this process can result in chronic irritation and swelling, or inflammation.

What causes BE?

BE develops for many reasons, and they can differ from person to person. Certain medical conditions put people at risk, such as:

  • Pair of lungs icon

    Repeated respiratory infections, like pneumonia, TB, or NTM

  • Flame icon

    Inflammatory diseases, like RA or IBD

  • Cracked shield icon

    A weakened immune system, like immunodeficiency disorders

  • Someone coughing icon

    COPD or asthma

  • Stomach icon

    Aspiration syndrome, like GERD

  • DNA icon

    Inherited (genetic) disorders, like PCD or alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency

COPD=chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; GERD=gastroesophageal reflux disease; IBD=inflammatory bowel disease; NTM=nontuberculous mycobacteria; PCD=primary ciliary dyskinesia; RA=rheumatoid arthritis; TB=tuberculosis.

What are the symptoms of BE?

Some common symptoms of BE are:

When surveyed about their symptoms, people with BE shared concerns about having a constant cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue, and feeling misunderstood, embarrassed, and anxious about the potential for future BE flares.

Many BE symptoms overlap with other conditions, which is why there may be a delay in diagnosis.

If your BE symptoms are worsening, it could be a BE flare. Your doctor may call them exacerbations, and they are common in BE. BE flares are unpredictable moments when your symptoms suddenly get worse, and they may worsen your condition by causing damage to your lungs. This is why it’s so important to tell your doctor when they happen and work together to manage them.

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