Part 1: What The Doctor Said
In October 2012 my doctor of 17 years decided that my breathing issues required further testing. Although most of my symptoms come and go, my doctor decided I needed cardiac and pulmonary tests. My symptoms included:
• Chronic cough with large amounts of sputum
• Coughing up blood (for me this is just occasionally)
• Cough that gets worse when lying on one side
• Shortness of breath that gets worse with exercise
• Susceptible to Lung Infections including pneumonia and bronchitis
The first test my doctor ordered was a Stress Echocardiogram. Here is a link to my blog about the Cardiac Stress Echocardiogram. My doctor said, "I want to rule out those things that would kill you." I am OK with that.
The upshot is my ticker is really good. So then my doctor referred my to National Jewish Pulmonary Center.
Over the next two months I went through several horrible and somewhat painful tests including:
• Six Pulmonary Spirometry Tests
• Peripheral Pulmonary Stenosis Test
• Pulmonary Function Test Battery (Big Plastic Box - The Worst)
• Bronchial Provocation Test with Methacholine
• Allergy Prick Skin Test (Itchy)
Last Thursday was the big day. The Pulmonary doctor had examined all the test results. The diagnosis was a bit of a shock. I have a mild form of Acquired Bronchiectasis. What?
Bronchiectasis is destruction and widening of the large airways. Acquired Bronchiectasis is thought to be caused by repeated lung infections. Each infection damages the airways, which leads to the airway becoming flabby and scarred.
Here is a really gross diagram that shows what an extreme case of Bronchiectasis looks like. As the airways widen and lose elasticity, the ability of the lungs to remove mucus diminishes.
I don't think is great news. But I think it is better to know about this condition than just wonder what the heck is going on
Part 2: It Is Not All Bad News
The doctor said that Bronchiectasis was common 50 or 60 years ago. The widespread use of antibiotics to treat lung infections have reduced the occurrence of Bronchiectasis. The symptoms can take many years to develop. When I was in grade school I would have bronchitis every winter . In those days, people did not run to a doctor for every cough, sneeze or sniffle. Big mistake for me.
What is the good news?
My lung capacity is gianormous! Normal male lung capacity for my height and age is 5.8 to 6.4 liters. My lung capacity is over 8 liters. My oxygen absorption rate is 140% of normal, which means my lungs are pretty efficient.
My Pulmonary doctor is runner and cyclist. He said that my lung capacity and efficiency indicates that I am a non-smoker with very good aerobic fitness.
The horrible allergy test was mostly negative. I am not overly allergic to anything. But, unfortunately, the Bronchiectasis can heighten allergic reactions.
Part 3: Treatment
There is no cure. Everything I am already doing such as using an inhaler and nebulizer; taking allergy meds and mucus thinners, are the recommended treatments. In extreme cases the treatment is to cut out the pieces of the lungs!
Yikes! No way!
The doctor also recommended staying at a healthy weight and making sure if I feel a lung infection coming on, to get antibiotics immediately.
He also said keep exercising.
Talk about motivation and incentives! Keep fit or end up losing chunks of my of lungs!
Thanks for reading my blog.