What Causes Wheezing?

Wheezing can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'needs attention' to 'life-threatening'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

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Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose wheezing, we could:

  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "wheezing" as a symptom.  Here are three possibilities:
  • Asthma
  • Acute Bronchitis
  • Carcinoid Cancer

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
very great unexplained weight loss
low systolic blood pressure
history of occult blood
shortness of breath when at rest
blue/bluish fingernails
elevated eosinophil count
very low tryptophan levels
facial flushing
acute bronchitis
dizziness when standing up
highly elevated basophil count
high air pollution exposure
... and more than 10 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of wheezing:
Cause Probability Status
Asthma 94% Confirm
Acute Bronchitis 12% Unlikely
Carcinoid Cancer 2% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

If you indicate having breathing problems, The Analyst™ will ask further questions including this one:
Do you wheeze? If you are using respiratory medication (e.g. for asthma), tell us if you wheeze when you are not using it.
Possible responses:
→ Don't know
→ No, not at all
→ Only after exercise
→ Occasionally / slightly
→ Much of the time / severely
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate absence of wheezing, wheezing after exercise only or wheezing, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Carcinoid Cancer

Patients with Carcinoid Syndrome sometimes have wheezing or asthma-like symptoms, making breathing difficult.

Concerned or curious about your health?  Try The Analyst™
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