Bronchiectasis is a condition which damages the airways leading in and out of the lungs, stripping them of their mucus-clearing capabilities. Common variable immune deficiency (or CVID) is an immune system disorder. On the surface, the two appear completely unrelated. However, very little that goes on inside the body is unrelated, especially when you’re dealing with the immune system.
That’s why you can’t take a cookie-cutter approach to patient care; you have to look at each individual patient as, well, an individual!
People with CVID are much more susceptible to recurrent bacterial infections, and the lungs are one of the most vulnerable spots. When these infections cause enough damage to the airway walls, the result can be bronchiectasis. But, as science columnist and PhD student Maureen Newman writes for Lung Disease News, doctors don’t typically focus on what causes bronchiectasis because they believe it has little bearing on how the condition is managed.
As Newman points out, though, personalized medicine can not only help pinpoint the cause behind bronchiectasis—it can also open the door to a better understanding of how to treat the whole patient.
Citing a case study from India, Newman discusses how one doctor decided to dig deeper into a patient he was treating for bronchiectasis. As it turns out, the patient was showing other signs and symptoms of a deeper, underlying condition. Along with his severe cough, breathlessness, and fever, he’d dealt with respiratory infections on and off since he was a child, and had recurring diarrhea for seven years. Prior therapies to treat these symptoms had gone nowhere. After some more digging and testing, the doctor discovered the root problem was actually CVID.
It makes sense: About 76% of CVID patients also develop bronchiectasis.
Having the diagnosis from his CVID symptoms helped the doctor better tailor his patient’s treatment regimen and manage his recovery. The moral of the story? If you’re living with CVID, don’t just assume the cough or fever you’ve been fighting is just a cold. And if you’re a doctor, never assume that your patient’s bronchiectasis came out of nowhere.
Patients don’t come off assembly lines—so neither should their care!