Wheezing: What are the causes in adults?

Wheezing is characterized as a high-pitched whistle-like sound that is produced while inhaling when the air travels via constricted airways. The sound is quite perceivable during exhalation but can also be heard lightly while inhaling. Wheezing is an indication of an issue that is interfering with normal breathing. Always bear in mind that there are various conditions that can lead to difficulty breathing.

Conditions that cause wheezing

Bronchitis

Bronchitis is characterized by inflammation of the airways and can be categorized as acute or chronic. When it comes to acute cases of bronchitis, they are triggered by viral infections such as common cold that start in the nose and later on spreads to the airways. As for chronic bronchitis, it gradually develops and most often due to smoking.

The symptoms of bronchitis include the following:

  • Mucus-filled cough
  • Burning sensation in the chest
  • Wheezing
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swollen legs

The acute cases of bronchitis typically subside without requiring treatment but if the inflammation is due to a virus, the doctor might prescribe antibiotics. The initial step in managing chronic cases is to quit smoking. Medications that can be used in managing the condition include bronchodilators which work by opening up the airways and corticosteroids that minimize the inflammation.

Wheezing

Other symptoms of asthma that can manifest include chest pain, chest tightness and difficulty sleeping due to the coughing episodes.

Asthma

Asthma involves inflammation of the airways along with the surplus production of mucus by the lungs. The resulting inflammation of the airways leads to constriction. The narrowing along with the excess mucus causes difficulty breathing.

The precise cause of asthma is still unknown but it might be due to the combination of genetic factors and environmental triggers such as increased physical activity and presence of airborne allergens.

The typical symptoms of asthma include the following:

  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing

Other symptoms that can manifest include chest pain, chest tightness and difficulty sleeping due to the coughing episodes. Asthma is usually managed with a combination of rapid-relief and long-term medications. The quick-relief medications include inhalers that contain corticosteroids to minimize the inflammation of the airways while the long-term medications must be taken on a daily basis to prevent the constriction of the airways to minimize the severity of the symptoms.

Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis involves widening and eventual destruction of the large airways in the lungs. This widening is caused by the chronic inflammation that is either congenital which is present from birth or acquired due to recurrent lung infections, tumor or obstructed airways.

Cystic fibrosis is the cause of bronchiectasis in most of the cases. The symptoms of bronchiectasis typically develop in a gradual manner and include the following:

  • Wheezing
  • Chronic cough
  • Breath odor
  • Fatigue
  • Coughing up blood
  • Paleness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss

Daily drainage of the lung secretions is vital in treating the condition. Other treatment options include antibiotics, breathing exercises and bronchodilators. In some cases, surgery might be required if other treatment options do not work.

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