Introduction to Wheezing
Wheezing is a respiratory sound described as a continuous, course whistle during breathing.
What is Wheezing?
Wheezing is a respiratory sound described as a continuous, course whistle during breathing. It is the result of air being forced through narrow airways, which are narrow due to either bronchospasm (lining of the airways contracting), inflammation (swelling) of the airway lining, excessive mucus in the airways, an inhaled foreign object, or a tumour.
What causes Wheezing?
The main cause of wheezing is asthma, which presents at any age and occurs in approximately 1 in 10 children, and 1 in 20 adults. Asthma is a inflammatory disease causing reversible airway obstruction, with associated coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. COPD is unlike asthma, as it is persistent inflammation of the airways with irreversible airway obstruction, it is caused by smoking. It is a mixture of bronchitis and emphysema (damage to the alveoli of the lungs).
Bronchiolitis is a common condition in babies, and refers to an infection of the bronchioles of the lungs. It is normally caused by a virus and is self-limiting, although more severe cases may need hospital admission. Infection can also occur in adults, for example pneumonia, and any infection can trigger wheezing.
Less common causes include inhalation of a foreign object and various systemic inflammatory disorders.
What are the symptoms of Wheezing?
A continuous, coarse, whistling sound coming from the respiratory airways and occurring during breathing.
How is Wheezing treated?
Due to the numerous causes of wheezing, treatment is very varied and dependent on the cause. Common tests performed to identify the cause are lung function tests and chest X-rays.