ZocdocAnswersWhat causes wheezing?

Question

What causes wheezing?

My wife is 40, and she wheezes anytime she has to exercise physically. She has never been diagnosed with asthma or any lung trouble, but she's somewhat out of shape. What could be causing this?

Answer

Wheezing is a symptom that can be very distressing. Sometimes wheezing can be heard by listening to a patient breath without a stethoscope, but normally wheezes can't be heard without one. If she is wheezing when she exercises there are a few possible causes her physician could consider. He or she will take a detailed history of the symptoms along with a physical exam which will allow you and her to get to the bottom of the problem. Wheezing is caused by constriction of the bronchioles that carry air to the main lung tissue. This constriction causes a high pitched noise when she exhales. Wheezing is usually secondary to asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchiolitis, or perhaps a foreign object stuck in the airway. Asthma has a huge range of severity and the mild intermittent form can go undiagnosed for a long time. There is a type of asthma called exercise induced asthma where patient's wheeze only when they exercise. This one may be what your wife has. COPD is also possible if your wife has a history of smoking. Bronchitis or bronchiolitis are less likely unless you wife also had a fever and cough when she wheezed. I would schedule and appointment with her primary care physician who can perform simple breathing tests in the office. He or she will know what the next best step is, if any steps are necessary. Good luck.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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