Asthma and bronchiectasis are overlapping lung diseases

Asthma and bronchiectasis are overlapping respiratory diseases, and although they have different clinical outcomes, they frequently coexist.  

Asthma and bronchiectasis are chronic respiratory conditions affecting the lungs and the airways that transfer air into the lungs.

While asthma mainly narrows the airways making it difficult to breathe from time to time, bronchiectasis occurs when the walls of the airways thicken due to a lung infection. 

The link between asthma and bronchiectasis 

Trouble in breathing – be it chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing – the symptoms are identical in both asthma and bronchiectasis. 

Bronchiectasis is increasingly being seen overlapping in asthmatic patients that can contribute to disease severity. 

Many studies have found a link between asthma and bronchiectasis, mostly about their coexistence and the symptoms mimicking each other. 

For instance, a study concluded that almost one-third of the patients with uncontrolled asthma also had bronchiectasis

Yet another study suggests the management of these overlapping conditions remains particularly challenging in terms of treatment and diagnosis. 

This is why knowing your risk factors and seeing a doctor upon noticing symptoms is the best way to treat and manage these chronic conditions. 

Know the difference in the risk factors for asthma and bronchiectasis 

Risk Factors of Asthma 

  • Environments exposures – People when exposed to occupational pollution like chemicals, dust or gas, can develop asthma for the first time. And for people with asthma, exposure to such an environment can trigger asthmatic symptoms.
  • Allergies – if you’re allergic to dust, hay fever or have an allergic condition such as eczema, then you have a higher risk of asthma. 

Risk factors of bronchiectasis 

  • Infections – A wide variety of infections can lead to bronchiectasis. They can include, fungal infection, severe pneumonia infection, restart infections, tuberculosis (TB) as well as whooping cough in childhood.
  • Cystic fibrosis – Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that affects the secretory gland. When someone is affected by this, the mucus becomes thick, so it clogs the airways, leading to infections and subsequently to bronchiectasis.
  • Pre-existing lung conditions – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and chronic inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease can also increase your risk for bronchiectasis

Diagnosis of asthma and bronchiectasis 

Seeking a proper diagnosis is essential. You may face episodes of trouble in breathing, that may indicate asthma, but it is only through a diagnosis that can differentiate asthma and bronchiectasis  

There is no single test for diagnosing asthma. However, a lung function test called the Spirometry Test is widely used to measure lung capacity. 

For bronchiectasis, an X-ray of the chest is conducted to determine the cause of cough, a sputum test to see if you have illnesses that could be helped with antibodies and/or a lung function test similar to asthma diagnosis to measure your lung capacity