Bronchiectasis may first appear as a cough that occurs over months or years (sometimes called a “flareup” or “exacerbation”). This coughing can be dry (non-productive) or produce variable amounts of sputum (mucus), which contains bacteria and sometimes even blood (hemoptysis). Individuals may experience shortness of breath (dyspnea), wheezing, reduced lung function, fatigue and repetitive respiratory infections often requiring antibiotics. Patients with bronchiectasis may experience weight loss and children with bronchiectasis may also fail to grow at a normal rate.


Severe bronchiectasis can lead to other serious health conditions, such as respiratory failure (not enough oxygen passes from the lungs to the blood) and an area of collapsed lung (called atelectasis). Both of these conditions cause shortness of breath or rapid breathing and increased heart rate. Bronchiectasis can be so severe that it affects all parts of the airways. It can also result in cardiovascular disease and death. Exacerbations (flareups) may include increased cough, sputum, shortness of breath (dyspnea), fever, changes in radiography, and changes in chest sounds.