About the causes of wheezing when exhaling

Updated March 23, 2017

There are many reasons why one wheezes while exhaling and all pertain to the respiratory system and should not be ignored. Seek the advice of a qualified health professional if you find yourself relating to any of the following causes of wheezing . Parts of your body, including the brain, may be oxygen-starved due to a suppressed respiratory system and medical attention should be sought immediately.


A history of respiratory infections such as pleurisy (inflammation of the parietal layer of the pleura), can leave scar tissue on the lungs, decreasing the amount of air that may be processed. This leads to chronic wheezing and signal the need for oxygen to help the victim saturate the red blood cells with oxygen to carry to vital organs such as the brain, heart and circulatory system.


Emphysema causes wheezing on exhalation due to holes in the air sacs in the lungs. Emphysema victims usually have a chronic cough and although sufferers may be able to breathe in with no problem; breathing out is difficult and air cannot be expelled with ease. This causes wheezing on exhalation.


Asthma has a profound effect on the lungs and the ability to breathe. Exercise should be done in moderation to prevent an asthma attack, which may be fatal in some cases. An asthma attack may be brought on by stress, fright, over-exercising or cold air. An inhaler is necessary to open up the lungs sufficiently enough for the asthmatic to take air into their lungs. Failure to use the inhaler (prescribed by a doctor), and the victim will wheeze on exhalation and struggle for breath. This may result in oxygen deprivation leading to more serious complications.


Pneumonia may cause wheezing on exhalation and the victim may experience pain on breathing, somewhat similar to the pain of a broken rib. Pneumonia may cause the lips to turn blue, called cyanosis, from lack of oxygen in the red corpuscles delivering blood around the body. Fingernails may turn white or blue and the victim will feel weak and may be disoriented due to oxygen deprivation. Immediate medical attention is necessary, as pneumonia does not clear up without the use of antibiotics. In extreme cases, the lungs fill with fluid and victims can actually drown in their own body fluids.


Tuberculosis touches the lives of many people across the globe. Caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a chronic cough with wheezing on exhalation is present with bloody sputum that is contagious by airborne droplets from an infected victim's coughing, spitting or sneezing. Nearly half of all tuberculosis victims from undeveloped countries eventually die after contracting the disease. In the developed world, tuberculosis is gaining victims becaause individuals with compromised immune systems are unable to put up a significant defence against the disease.


Chronic bronchitis is suffered by many smokers, asthmatics and those who have compromised immune systems. This includes children and adults. The symptoms of chronic bronchitis may be relieved by medications and inhalers although signs and symptoms may be worse during cold spells and the winter season. Chronic cough and coughing up blood, shortness of breath and wheezing all signal the need to see a medical professional immediately.

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About the Author

Victoria Ries is a freelance writer whose work has been published in various print magazines, including "Guideposts," "BackHome," New Homesteading" and "Mother Earth News." Ries enjoys working on diverse topics such as travel, animal rescue, health and home business. Ries is currently working on her B.A. in psychology.