Gender differences in bronchiectasis: a real issue?

Breathe (Sheff). 2018 Jun;14(2):108-121. doi: 10.1183/20734735.000218.


Gender differences in chronic respiratory disease, including cystic fibrosis and non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis are clinically apparent and of increasing importance. Differences in disease prevalence, severity and outcome are all described, however, the precise cause of the gender dichotomy and their associated underlying mechanisms have been poorly characterised. A lack of dedicated clinical and epidemiological research focused in this area has led to a paucity of data and therefore a lack of understanding of its key drivers. Diagnosis, disease pathogenesis and treatment response are all complex but important aspects of bronchiectasis with an evident gender bias. Broadening our understanding of the interplay between microbiology, host physiology and the environment in the context of chronic lung diseases, such as bronchiectasis, is critical to unravelling mechanisms driving the observed gender differences. In this review, epidemiological, biological and environmental evidence related to gender in bronchiectasis is summarised. This illustrates gender differences as a "real issue" with the objective of mapping out a future framework upon which a gender-tailored medical approach may be incorporated into the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of bronchiectasis.

Key points: CF and non-CF bronchiectasis are complex, multifactorial chronic pulmonary diseases with gender-specific differences in their prevalence, clinical presentation and disease severity.Microbiology and host physiology (immune and inflammatory responses) are essential aspects of bronchiectasis that are influenced by gender.Sex steroid hormones vary in type, fluctuating pattern and concentration throughout life and between the genders with a potential central role in bronchiectasis-related gender differences.Gender-focused clinical and/or therapeutic intervention has the potential to narrow the observed gender gap occurring in bronchiectasis-related lung disease.

Educational aims: To summarise the existing knowledge base of gender-related differences in CF and non-CF bronchiectasis.To highlight key areas of importance in the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of bronchiectasis that is amenable to clinical and/or pharmacological intervention to narrow the existing "gender gap".

Publication types

  • Review