The first sign of bronchiectasis is often a persistent cough. If you go to see your primary healthcare provider, they’ll usually ask you about the nature of your cough, if you bring up any sputum and whether or not you smoke. In addition, they should listen to your lungs with a stethoscope. If they hear a crackling noise or wheezing they may suspect you have bronchiectasis and refer you to a pulmonologist (reference: NHS.UK).
It is likely that you will have a sample of your sputum tested and undergo a chest x-ray to rule out lung cancer. You will then need to have a CT scan which will show the bronchi (the airways inside of the lungs) in detail. The bronchi should taper at the ends, like branches of a tree, but if the bronchi are widened then it is likely that a diagnosis of bronchiectasis will be given.
Although the CT scan is usually very detailed and accurate (between 82 percent and 97 percent) further tests may be needed, and on rare occasions, this will mean having a bronchoscopy. Usually, blood tests will be taken to check for viruses or bacteria and to determine how well your immune system is coping. Lung function tests will show how quickly you can expel air from your lungs which will give the doctors an idea how the lungs are working and the level of damage sustained. If the patient is suspected of having cystic fibrosis, then a sweat test (pilocarpine iontophoresis) will determine how much salt and chlorine is present. Find out more about bronchiectasis diagnosis here.
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