The sounds of the lungs can provide clues that help a doctor to diagnose an underlying condition.
In this article, learn about the conditions that cause bibasilar crackles. We also describe how a doctor diagnoses and treats them.
What are bibasilar crackles?
Bibasilar crackles are abnormal sounds from the base of the lungs. They indicate that something is interfering with airflow.
Two issues often cause bibasilar crackles. One is the accumulation of mucus or fluid in the lungs. Another is a failure of parts of the lungs to inflate properly.
The crackles themselves are not a disease, but they can be a sign of an illness or infection.
The crackles sound like brief popping when a person breathes. Some people describe the sound as similar to wood burning in a fireplace.
Bibasilar crackles are more common during inhalation, but they can occur when a person exhales.
Doctors classify the crackles as fine or coarse, depending on their volume, pitch, and duration.
For example, fine crackles are often soft and high-pitched. Coarse crackles are usually louder and low-pitched, with a wet or bubbling sound.
Bibasilar crackles may occur with additional symptoms, depending on the underlying cause. Possible accompanying symptoms include:
- trouble breathing
- swelling in the feet or lower legs
Pulmonary edema involves a buildup of fluid in the alveoli, which are small air sacs in the lungs.
Possible causes of pulmonary edema include:
- heart damage or dysfunction
- damage to the pulmonary capillaries
- trauma to the chest
- inhalation of a toxic substance
Pulmonary edema can result from altitude sickness, which occurs when a person unaccustomed to altitudes ascends to 2,500 meters or higher.
In addition to bibasilar crackles, symptoms of pulmonary edema include coughing, trouble breathing, blue-tinged lips, and spitting up pink, frothy mucus.
Pulmonary fibrosis is a type of interstitial lung disease characterized by scarring of the lungs.
In most cases, the underlying cause is unknown.
However, pulmonary fibrosis can result from exposure to hazardous materials, such as radiation, animal droppings, and asbestos.
Symptoms include a dry cough, shortness of breath, and unexplained weight loss.
Treatment for bibasilar crackles will depend on the underlying cause. The crackles may fade or disappear after treatment.
However, if the cause is a chronic condition, the crackles may occur on and off for an extended period.
Below are some treatments for common causes of bibasilar crackles.
A doctor may prescribe diuretics for a person with heart failure. Diuretics are medications developed to reduce levels of fluid in the lungs.
A person may require antibiotics if the crackles have resulted from bacterial pneumonia or bronchitis.
Doctors may also prescribe steroids to decrease inflammation in the lungs.
Many causes of bibasilar crackles lead to shortness of breath. Oxygen therapy can help to make breathing easier.
In some instances, crackles result from chronic lung disease.
Making certain lifestyle changes, such as stopping smoking, may help to treat the underlying condition and prevent long-term complications.
When to see a doctor
Anyone with symptoms of bibasilar crackles should speak to a doctor as soon as possible.
The crackles are an abnormal sound, and they usually indicate that an underlying condition requires treatment.
Bibasilar crackles can result from a severe lung problem. Prompt diagnosis and treatment may help to prevent long-term complications.
Anyone who experiences bibasilar crackles and shortness of breath, chest pain, or blood-tinged mucus should seek immediate medical attention.
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