Lung crackles are abnormal breath sounds that can be heard using a stethoscope. The crackling in the lungs typically indicates buildup of fluid, pus or mucus in the small airways.
In most cases, it is due to lung ailments such as pneumonia. The crackles might also arise with heart conditions that leads to the backup of the flow of blood amidst the heart and lungs.
This is the main cause of lung crackles. A common form of lung infection, specifically bronchitis can cause airway irritation and inflammation with increased production of mucus that causes lung crackles.
Pneumonia is a bacterial or viral infection that affects the air sacs of the lungs. This leads to the buildup of pus and mucus in the air sacs with the accompanying crackles.
Obstructive pulmonary diseases
Obstructive lung diseases such as obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, bronchiectasis and cystic fibrosis are characterized by continuous airway inflammation and constriction.
These issues disrupt with normal exhalation that leads to poor emptying of the lungs between breaths. This leads to diminished intake of air while breathing. The obstructive lung diseases generally cause wheezing but can also trigger lung crackles, mainly due to the excess mucus in the airways from the inflamed airways.
Can heart failure cause lung crackles?
The weakening of the heart muscle due to a viral infection, heart attack or genetic condition can lead to heart failure.
Once the pumping ability of the heart worsens, the blood flows back in the arteries between the heart and lungs. This increased pressure results to the leakage of fluid into the lungs. Many individuals with serious heart failure feel short of breath initially due to the fluid buildup.
Interstitial lung disease
Interstitial lung disease is characterized by irregularities with the interstitium which is the tissue that envelops the air sacs.
Individuals with the condition usually have lung crackles in both lungs especially during inspiration. The condition develops without a precise cause.