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Wheezing: Introduction

Wheezing is an abnormal sound made during breathing that can be compared to a high-pitched whistling sound. Wheezing is a type of breathing difficulty can be a symptom of a variety of disorders, diseases or conditions. Wheezing can result from infection, inflammation, and airway obstruction and other abnormal processes.

Wheezing is made as air passes through narrowed areas in the respiratory tract. Wheezing due to a narrowed trachea (windpipe) is often the result of croup or a foreign body in the throat and partial airway obstruction. Wheezing due to narrowed airways in the lungs is often the result of diseases, such as asthma, COPD, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, or pneumonia. Wheezing can also result from an allergic reaction or the more serious anaphylactic reaction. Wheezing is often made during exhalation, but can be made during inhalation as well.

Wheezing may be combined with rapid breathing, more that about 16 breaths per minute for an adult (tachypnea). This can be a symptom of a serious, potentially life-threatening respiratory condition.

Wheezing can occur in sudden, severe episodes, such as wheezing that happens with an asthma attack. Wheezing can also be chronic and ongoing over a long period of time, such as when it is due to COPD.

Wheezing often occurs in conjunction with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Other common symptoms include shortness of breath. Complications of wheezing can include low oxygen levels and high carbon dioxide levels in the body. The underlying disorder, disease or condition can also cause complications. For more details about symptoms and complications, see symptoms of wheezing.

Diagnosing wheezing and its root cause begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. This includes listening with a stethoscope on the chest and throat for wheezing.

A noninvasive test called a pulse oximetry is generally performed. This involves clipping a painless device to the fingertip, which measures the amount of oxygen in the blood. An arterial blood gas test is a blood test that measures the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood, as well as a number of other important markers of effective breathing.

Making a diagnosis also includes performing a variety of other tests to help to diagnose potential underlying diseases, conditions or disorders. Depending on the suspected cause, tests can include additional blood tests, culture and sensitivity tests, pulmonary function test, EKG, and imaging tests, such as chest X-ray.

A diagnosis of wheezing and its cause can easily be delayed or missed because wheezing may be mild or intermittent and for other reasons. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of wheezing.

Treatment of wheezing involves diagnosing and treating the underlying disease, disorder or condition that is causing it. Some conditions can be easily and successfully treated and cured, while others may require more intensive treatment. Treatments may include supplemental oxygen and medications. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of wheezing. ...more »

Wheezing: A noisy, whistling sound caused by breathing difficulties. The condition is caused by a constriction or obstruction of the throat or other parts of the respiratory system. Wheezing is associated with conditions such as asthma and congestive heart failure. ...more »

Wheezing: Symptoms

Symptoms that accompany wheezing vary depending on the underlying cause. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, labored breathing, anxiety, fever, stridor and chest pain. Other coexisting symptoms may include flu-like symptoms, fatigue, weakness, paleness and blueness of the skin (cyanosis).

Complications of underlying ...more symptoms »

Wheezing: Treatments

Treatment plans for wheezing are individualized depending on the underlying cause, the presence of coexisting diseases, the age and medical history of the patient, and other factors. Treatment generally involves a multifaceted plan that addresses the cause, eases breathing, decreases the risk of developing serious complications, and helps a person to breathe comfortably and live an active life ...more treatments »

Wheezing: Misdiagnosis

Diagnosing wheezing and its cause may be delayed or missed because in some cases, wheezing may progress gradually, such as in COPD, or it may not be severe enough for a person to seek medical care.

Wheezing can be a sign of a serious condition and should be evaluated immediately. Wheezing is a symptom of many different conditions, so a thorough medical evaluation is needed to ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Wheezing

Home Diagnostic Testing

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Wrongly Diagnosed with Wheezing?

Wheezing: Related Patient Stories

Causes of Wheezing

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Disease Topics Related To Wheezing

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Wheezing: Undiagnosed Conditions

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Misdiagnosis and Wheezing

Sinusitis is overdiagnosed: There is a tendency to give a diagnosis of sinusitis, when the condition is really a harmless complication of another infection, such as a common more »

Whooping cough often undiagnosed: Although most children in the Western world have been immunized against whooping cough (also called "pertussis"), this more »

Chronic lung diseases hard to diagnose: Some of the chronic lung diseases are difficult to diagnose. Even the well-knowns conditions such as asthma or lung cancer often fail to be diagnosed more »

Wheezing: Research Doctors & Specialists

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Hospitals & Clinics: Wheezing

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Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Wheezing, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Wheezing: Rare Types

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Wheezing: Animations

Research about Wheezing

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Wheezing: Broader Related Topics

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