Bronchiectasis increases the risk of stroke, impaired cognitive function, and sleep disturbances, a study reports.
Researchers said the findings suggest that the disease can affect several systems in the body, not just the airways and lungs. Damage to airways causes bronchiectasis, whose hallmark is enlarged air passages that can lead to a build-up of mucus, infections and other problems.
The study involved a review of other research. Titled “Neurological and Sleep Disturbances in Bronchiectasis,” it was published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.
Little research has been done on possible links between bronchiectasis and neurological conditions such as stroke, brain infections and cognitive function. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients.
A research team decided to analyze studies that looked at the relationship between bronchiectasis and other conditions.
Few studies have dealt with possible links between bronchiectasis and stroke, but the ones that scientists have conducted did find links. The research indicated that bronchiectasis patients are at higher risk of having a heart disorder or a stroke.
“The association between bronchiectasis and stroke is likely to be multi-factorial,” the review researchers wrote.
Factors contributing to the link between bronchiectasis, heart disease and stroke include inflammation, infections, and sleep disturbances, according to this research.
Some studies have investigated the quality of sleep in bronchiectasis patients. One used a questionnaire known as the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index to conclude that up to 57 percent of adults with bronchiectasis had sleep disturbances.
The biggest contributor to these patients’ sleep disturbances was depression, followed by increased volume of sputum in airways, and increased nighttime cough.
“This suggests that co-existing psychological morbidity [a psychological condition] can have a significant impact on sleep disturbance in patients with bronchiectasis,” the researchers wrote.
The team said the results indicate that doctors need to be vigilant about depression, especially in bronchiectasis patients who report sleep disturbances.
Scientists have known that people with respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, can experience cognitive dysfunction. But they have yet to learn how bronchiectasis affects cognition.
One study reported that bronchiectasis patients had lower IQ, verbal and performance test scores than healthy people. The patients also had much higher depression scores and lower oxygen levels in their blood.
In addition, a number of case studies have suggested a link between bronchiectasis and brain infections.
“Bronchiectasis may be related to diseases in multiple body systems, including the neurological system,” the researchers wrote. It is “associated with an increased risk of stroke and cerebral infection, impaired cognitive function and impact on sleep quality in patients with bronchiectasis,” they wrote.