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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Medical Symptoms > Wheezing
      Category : Health Centers > Respiratory System (Lungs and Breathing)


Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Wheezing describes a form of difficult, noisy breathing.

What is going on in the body?

Wheezing is often described as a whistling or squeaking noise that occurs when people breathe. It is thought to occur due to narrowed airways. When the airways are narrowed from any cause, the air passing through them may make the noise known as wheezing. Wheezing usually occurs when a person breathes out, or exhales, but may also occur when a person breathes in, or inhales. There are many possible causes.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Wheezing has many possible causes, including:

  • asthma, a condition that causes reversible narrowing of the airways. This usually occurs after exposure to certain triggers, such as pollen, cold air, or exercise.
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. This is usually due to smoking cigarettes.
  • heart conditions, such as congestive heart failureand mitral stenosis, a disorder that affects one of the valves of the heart
  • cancer or a tumor, particularly primary lung cancer
  • heartburn, also called gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • allergic reactions, which may be from medications such as penicillin or aspirin, or due to exposure to cat hair, bee stings, a certain food, or some other substance
  • infections, such as pneumonia, or an infection usually seen in children called bronchiolitis
  • a foreign body somewhere in the windpipes. This commonly occurs in young children who can accidentally inhale small objects they put into their mouths.
  • cystic fibrosis, an inherited condition that mainly affects the lungs and digestion
  • inflammation of the lung from other conditions, such as a disorder known as sarcoidosis
  • Other causes are also possible. Sometimes no cause can be found.


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    Wheezing: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Adam Brochert, MD
    Reviewer: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Date Reviewed: 03/26/01

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