Crackling in Lungs

image001Crackling in lungs is best described as the sound of popping, wheezing, or otherwise loud lung sounds when you breathe. You usually can’t hear this on your own, but a doctor with a stethoscope can. The sound comes from parts of your airway opening up suddenly, resulting in a sound as the air escapes. Such crackling sounds can be caused by serious lung diseases, such as pneumonia and treatment should depend on the underlying cause.

Types of Crackling Sounds in Lungs

When your doctor hears the cracklings sounds in lungs, it usually takes the form of four different types. Each type means something different. Here are the four most common words you might hear as well as their features.

  • Wheezes. These are high-pitched sounds that come from a narrowed airway. The air struggles to get through, and thus the wheezing. In some cases, this can be heard very clearly without a stethoscope.
  • Rales. These are rattling sounds, or a kind of bubbling. They might also be described as “fine and dry,” meaning they are somewhat light and without any sort of moist sounds during breathing.
  • Stridor. These sounds are similar to wheezes in that they are caused by a narrowed or blocked airway. In this case, the problem is with the trachea.
  • Rhonchi. These can sound like light or heavy snoring, and usually occur thanks to blockage of some kind in the airway that keeps breath from flowing smoothly in and out of your lungs.

Here is a video to show you the different crackling sounds of lungs.

Causes and Treatments of Crackling in Lungs

There are several causes of crackling in lungs, and each one has a different treatment. Only your doctor can tell you for sure what is wrong, and how it can be treated. Here are explanations of the most common causes of crackling in lungs.

1. Pneumonia

An infection of the lungs can lead to inflammation, and that is commonly called pneumonia. There are many different reasons for lung infections, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. The symptoms depend on what caused the infection, but in general, they tend mimic flu symptoms, including fever and coughing, shortness of breath, muscle pain, chest pain, headache, and crackling sounds when you breathe.

Treatment. The treatments for pneumonia depend upon the reasons for it. Antibiotics can be used, and so can antifungal medications. Pneumonia is a serious condition that can often require a hospital stay. That stay might include respiratory treatments to remove fluid or mucus, as well as supplemental oxygen to help you breathe.

2. Pulmonary Edema

Your lungs have air sacs lining each one. When those air sacs become filled with fluid, it can make it difficult to breathe. This is called pulmonary edema. Signs include difficulty breathing, a feeling of suffocation, fatigue, sweating, shortness of breath, pale skin, gurgling or wheezing sounds while breathing, and coughing up blood.

Treatment. This is an emergency situation that requires immediate medical help. For treatment, oxygen is administered, and medications can be used to treat the underlying causes of the edema. These might include diuretics to help drain the fluid, and medications to help strengthen the heart muscle or make the heart work easier.

3. Bronchitis

When the bronchial tube becomes inflamed, that’s bronchitis. Acute bronchitis comes on quickly, usually after a cold, and resolves in a few days. Chronic bronchitis doesn’t resolve, and usually needs medical intervention. Either one is caused by a virus. Signs include chest discomfort, shortness of breath, a productive cough, wheezing, fatigue, chills and perhaps a slight fever.

Treatment. If you are diagnosed with chronic bronchitis, remember that this is a long-term and serious medical condition. Contrary to popular belief, antibiotics don’t work against bronchitis, as antibiotics don’t work on viruses. The best treatment is plenty of rest and fluids, and medications for the fever to make you more comfortable. If your airways are narrowed, medications to open them up might be used. Smoking or being around second-hand smoke can make the situation much worse.

4. Atelectasis

This happens when your lung, or part of your lung, collapses. As a result, you can’t draw air into that lung. It can often happen after a trauma, such as a car accident, or because of disease or underlying conditions. Symptoms include sudden and significant difficulty breathing and pain in the chest.

Treatment. Treatments for this condition must be administered quickly – this is a medical emergency! Treatment begins with removing the blockage of the airway and opening up the lungs again. This might include medications or surgical intervention.

5. Pulmonary Fibrosis

This is caused when fibrous tissue begins to grow in the lungs. It might be caused by inhalation of pollutants, or by any cause at all. When it does happen, your doctor will hear crackling as you exhale. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest discomfort, and fatigue.

Treatment. Pulmonary fibrosis can be treated with medications, including steroids or natural amino acids. Oxygen therapy can help as well. Pulmonary rehabilitation, designed to help you with physical exercise and breathing support, might be ordered by your doctor. Surgery is usually a last resort, but it can relieve some of the symptoms. If you have a sudden onset of difficulty breathing, that is an emergency situation – don’t wait, and head to the emergency room or call 911 immediately.