It is difficult to say exactly how many people have bronchiectasis. Estimates used to be between 26 and 50 thousand patients in the UK. A more recent study suggested that there are over 300,000 living with bronchiectasis in the UK. This is much less common than conditions such as COPD, yet much more common than conditions such as cystic fibrosis. In the North East of England, for example, there are approximately 1200 patients with a diagnosis of bronchiectasis.
“I thought a cough and a spit sort of thing was like when old people had been smoking and things like that, and they’ve brought it on themselves, not something that just happened to you, I mean I don’t smoke.” Celia, 67
“Have I still got emphysema? Is bronchiectasis worse than emphysema, or different?” Jean, 76
People often ask if bronchiectasis is the same as the smoking related lung disease COPD, and people who have bronchiectasis are often upset and frustrated that others assume smoking has caused the problems with their lungs.
Bronchiectasis is not the same as COPD or asthma.
Bronchiectasis is caused by many different conditions.
Many patients with bronchiectasis have never smoked, whilst COPD is caused by smoking fairly heavily.
It is important to note that some patients develop bronchiectasis as a complication of COPD. As both conditions can cause, cough, breathlessness, repeated chest infections and abnormal breathing tests, it is not surprising that they can also sometimes be mixed up.
In the UK, most GPs will look after 150-200 patients with COPD, whereas most practices will have less than 10 patients with bronchiectasis.
One thing that clearly links the two conditions is the need to stop smoking if you are a smoker to reduce your chances of further lung damage and also reduce the risks of developing lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases.
Bronchiectasis is not catching or contagious. If you have bronchiectasis, you may find that if you are around people who have chest infections or colds that you are more prone to becoming unwell yourself. The day to day coughing of a person who has bronchiectasis however is not ‘catching’.
There are strict cross infection guidelines for cystic fibrosis (a rarer cause of bronchiectasis). This is because in that setting there is clear evidence of bacteria being spread between patients. There are very limited studies in bronchiectasis and current practice is therefore based on opinion. As new research becomes available the advice may change. It is practical to suggest avoiding mixing with other patients who have bronchiectasis when they have an active infection. You should ask your Doctor or Nurse if you have concerns.
This website has been developed by doctors and patients as part of a research study. The site is designed to meet the information needs of people who have bronchiectasis and their families and carers and help them manage the condition.
Currently this website is being trialled as part of the ongoing study and is only available to those within the study. For details about the research study please go to http://public.ukcrn.org.uk.
If you would like more information about the study, either if you think you may be eligible to join this study, or if you would like to be able to look at this site in the future or hear about the research outcomes then please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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