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What Causes Bronchiectasis?

Damage to the walls of the airways usually is the cause of bronchiectasis. A lung infection may cause this damage. Examples of lung infections that can lead to bronchiectasis include:

  • Severe pneumonia (nu-MO-ne-ah)
  • Whooping cough or measles (uncommon in the United States due to vaccination)
  • Tuberculosis
  • Fungal infections

Conditions that damage the airways and raise the risk of lung infections also can lead to bronchiectasis. Examples of such conditions include:

  • Cystic fibrosis. This disease leads to almost half of the cases of bronchiectasis in the United States.
  • Immunodeficiency disorders, such as common variable immunodeficiency and, less often, HIV and AIDS.
  • Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (AS-per-ji-LO-sis). This is an allergic reaction to a fungus called aspergillus. The reaction causes swelling in the airways.
  • Disorders that affect cilia (SIL-e-ah) function, such as primary ciliary dyskinesia. Cilia are small, hair-like structures that line your airways. They help clear mucus (a slimy substance) out of your airways.
  • Chronic (ongoing) pulmonary aspiration (as-pih-RA-shun). This is a condition in which you inhale food, liquids, saliva, or vomited stomach contents into your lungs. Aspiration can inflame the airways, which can lead to bronchiectasis.
  • Connective tissue diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, and Crohn’s disease.

Other conditions, such as an airway blockage, also can lead to bronchiectasis. Many things can cause a blockage, such as a growth or a noncancerous tumor. An inhaled object, such as a piece of a toy or a peanut that you inhaled as a child, also can cause an airway blockage.

A problem with how the lungs form in a fetus may cause congenital bronchiectasis. This condition affects infants and children.

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Bronchiectasis Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Bronchiectasis, visit

June 02, 2014 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.