Bronchorrhea: Causes | Symptoms | Treatment

What Is Bronchorrhea?


Bronchorrhea means you produce an excessive amount of watery mucus. It’s typically defined as coughing up more than 100 milliliters (mL) of mucus a day.

Bronchorrhea is found in people with a certain type of lung cancer and some other health conditions. This condition is considered uncommon.

Read on to learn more about what causes bronchorrhea and how it’s treated.

What are the symptoms of bronchorrhea?

The main symptom of bronchorrhea involves coughing up a lot of watery mucus every day. It’s different from the occasional hacking cough you might get when you’re sick.

The cough can be aggravating and distressing. It tends to be worse in the morning and may improve throughout the day.

People with bronchorrhea may also have other symptoms, such as:

  • shortness of breath
  • chest pressure
  • pain from coughing
  • breathing difficulties
  • weakness
  • fatigue
  • weight loss

Untreated or uncontrolled bronchorrhea can result in:

  • electrolyte abnormalities
  • dehydration
  • severe obstruction in the airways

It can also make breathing extremely difficult.

Additionally, having bronchorrhea may make it hard to be in social situations. The nagging productive cough is often a constant symptom that interferes with everyday life.

What conditions cause bronchorrhea?

Bronchorrhea is associated with the following conditions:

Lung cancer

About 6 percent of people with a particular form of lung cancer, previously known as bronchioloalveolar carcinoma (BAC), experience bronchorrhea. BAC has now been renamed and broken down into more specific groups. The type of cancer thought to be the most common cause of bronchorrhea is now known as mucinous adenocarcinoma.


This breathing disorder causes your airways to narrow, become inflamed, and produce extra mucus. This can lead to bronchorrhea.

Chronic bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis causes inflammation of the bronchial tubes. The bronchial tubes are the airways that carry air to your lungs. It can lead to coughing up excessive mucus.

Tuberculosis (TB)

TB is a bacterial disease that affects the lungs and is linked to some cases of bronchorrhea.


This form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) is linked to certain respiratory infections and cystic fibrosis. It causes mucus to collect in the airways.


Some chemicals, known as organophosphates, can lead to symptoms of bronchorrhea.

Scorpion stings

Being stung by a scorpion can cause bronchorrhea.

How is this condition diagnosed?

You should see your doctor if you start coughing up an unusual amount of mucus or have a persistent cough.

Your doctor can diagnose bronchorrhea by measuring the amount of mucus you produce each day. You may also have to tell them about any other symptoms you have, the medicines you take, and your medical history.

You might need other tests to see what’s causing your symptoms. These will depend on what condition your doctor suspects you have, but may include:

  • chest X-ray or other imaging tests
  • spirometry (a lung function test)
  • sputum culture (a sample of your mucus)
  • blood tests
  • biopsy (tissue sample)

What are the options for treatment?

Your treatment plan will depend on what’s causing the condition. Bronchorrhea is often difficult to treat.

People with mucinous adenocarcinoma might require the following therapies:

  • antibiotics, such as clarithromycin (Biaxin)
  • steroids, such as inhaled beclomethasone (QVAR)
  • an inhaled nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as indomethacin
  • the man-made hormone octreotide
  • EGFR-targeted medicines, such as gefitinib (Iressa) and erlotinib (Tarceva)

Here are some general lifestyle changes that may help manage your condition:

  • Stay hydrated.
  • Quit smoking (if you smoke).
  • Use a humidifier.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Get enough rest, which for many people is 7 to 9 hours a day.
  • Get regular physical activity as tolerated.


Bronchorrhea is an uncommon condition. You might develop it if you have a specific type of lung cancer or another condition. Bronchorrhea can interfere with your quality of life.

Although it’s difficult to effectively treat, there are therapies that may help control your symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you think you might have this health problem.

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