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How is bronchiectasis diagnosed?

You doctor will ask lots of questions about you, your medical history and your symptoms. If your doctor suspects you may have bronchiectasis, you will be referred to a respiratory consultant.

How is bronchiectasis diagnosed?

You will have some tests, which are likely to include:

In some circumstances, your health care professional might suggest a bronchoscopy – using a camera in a narrow tube - to look inside your lungs and take samples.

Sometimes you’ll have further tests, including genetic blood tests, to try to find out why you’ve developed bronchiectasis.

Getting a diagnosis of bronchiectasis affects people differently. You might feel disbelief, worry or even relief at getting an explanation for your symptoms. Remember you are not alone.

“I was shocked but sort of glad in a way, because it explained why I hadn’t been well for so long” Tom, 33

What is the outlook for someone with bronchiectasis?

Bronchiectasis is a long-term condition. When you have bronchiectasis, you may have repeated chest infections.

Treatments including airway clearance (clearing the mucus from your lungs using breathing exercises and physiotherapy) aim to reduce the number and severity of these infections. Some people seem to be at risk of either more severe infections or more frequent infections. Scoring systems for bronchiectasis can help your doctor to identify if you’re at higher risk and may need more treatments.

Most people diagnosed with bronchiectasis have a normal life expectancy with treatment tailored to their needs. Some adults with bronchiectasis developed symptoms when they were children and live with bronchiectasis for many years.

Some people, who have very severe bronchiectasis, may have a shorter life expectancy.

We know people often worry about the future, so talk to your health care professional. You can ask them any questions you may have. Some people find it helpful to make a list. Remember - lots of people manage very well living with bronchiectasis.

 “I had to think to myself ‘I’m going to do the best that I can with it’ you know, ‘if these people can live with it, I can live with it’… and that really helped me to come to terms with it … you’ve got to help yourself … it’s not the end of the world.” Celia

Next: treatment for bronchiectasis >

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Download our bronchiectasis PDF (108 KB)

Last medically reviewed: March 2020. Due for review: March 2023

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.