Bronchiectasis is a structural change of the airways (bronchial tubes) in your lungs. This change is usually permanent. NTM infection causes your airways to produce or retain extra mucus and over time, it may lead to their dilation (widening) and scarring. Changes like this, from NTM infection or other illnesses such as Cystic Fibrosis, that damage muscle or elastic tissue of the bronchial tubes is called bronchiectasis. These dilated bronchial tubes can trap mucus. If you are unable to clear the mucus normally because it is trapped, the mucus stays in the airways and this can allow infection to grow. As the damage progresses and infections recur, it may become harder for the airways of your lungs to move air in and out, preventing enough oxygen from reaching your vital organs.

Bronchiectasis can affect one area of your lung or many sections of one or both lungs. The problems that lead to bronchiectasis often begin early in life, but you might not be diagnosed for many months or even many years, often until you’ve had repeated lung infections and have more difficulty breathing.

Though there is currently no cure, there are many things you can do to help minimize further damage to your lungs. In addition to proper diagnosis and treatment of any comorbidity that may be causing your bronchiectasis, you can take steps to living as healthy a lifestyle as possible and staying physically active. Oxygen therapy and airway clearance can help if your blood oxygen levels are too low. It is also important to clear the mucus from your lungs using an airway clearance device, exercise and other methods.

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