Chronic bronchiectasis is a progressive respiratory condition in which the tissue walls of the bronchial tubes become inflamed or scarred, causing the airways to widen abnormally, according to MedicineNet. The condition offsets a cycle of deterioration as dilated airways and damaged tissue impair the lungﾒs resistance to infections.
Bronchiectasis causes the bronchial tubes to lose elasticity and weakens the smooth muscles, making it difficult for the airways to contract properly, MedicineNet notes. Damaged airways are also less effective at removing mucus secretions, leading to blockage and ongoing buildup of bacteria. In turn, any acquired infections boost the severity of inflammation and scarring, increasing the risk of eventual respiratory failure.
Bronchiectasis may be congenital or develop after infections or damage from conditions such as whooping cough or cystic fibrosis, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute states. The condition triggers chest pain, wheezing, shortness of breath and chronic coughing, which may produce sputum that contains pus, mucus or other particles. The skin under fingernails and toenails may also thicken, a condition known as clubbing.
Atelectasis is one possible long-term complication that occurs when a lung collapses or loses the ability to inflate properly, cutting off healthy airflow, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Many doctors categorize bronchiectasis as a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, and as of 2015, the condition is treatable but incurable.