Asthma Lexicon: Lung Sound Terms To Know
Asthma tends to create some interesting lung sounds. So, doctors will probably want to listen to your lung sounds when they see you. What they hear can help them diagnose you. It can also help them decide how best to treat you.
Here are some basic lung sound terms.
Stethoscope. It’s a tool used by doctors to listen to lung sounds.
Lung sounds. It’s what doctors hear when they use a stethoscope to listen to lung sounds.
Clear. It’s what doctor’s want to hear.
Good aeration. It means you have normal air movement in your chest.
Normal lung sounds. Clear; bronchovesicular.
Bronchovesicular. It means you have normal lung sounds. It means air is moving nicely throughout your lung fields.
Adventitious. This means your lung sounds are abnormal. Examples of adventitious lung sounds are diminished and wheezing.
Diminished. It means that less air movement than normal is heard. During asthma attacks, your lung sounds may be difficult to hear. You may have less air movement.
Wheezing. This is a high pitched continuous sound. A wheeze caused by bronchospasm can only be heard with a stethoscope. It is caused by airway obstructions. Airway obstructions can be caused by bronchospasm. They can also be caused by secretions. Wheezing is the sound of air moving past these obstructions. While wheezing is a common sign of asthma, some asthmatics do not wheeze. So, wheezing alone cannot be used to diagnose asthma or an asthma attack. Wheezes are usually heard on expiration. But, they can also be heard on inspiration, especially during the severest asthma attacks.
Audible It means it can be heard without a stethoscope. It can be heard by the naked or unaided ear. Sometimes, when I'm having an asthma attack, my wheezes are audible like this. I remember, at one time when I was a kid, a nurse didn't believe I was having an asthma attack because she could hear my wheezes.
Inaudible. It means that it can only be heard with the aid of a stethoscope. A bronchospasm wheeze occurs in your smallest airways. It is inaudible to the unassisted ear.
Rhonchi. It’s the sound of air moving through secretions. It usually is heard on expiration. It often sounds like coarse lung sounds. It’s often described as coarse. Often, a good, strong cough may clear secretions and resolve rhonchi. Since it may occur in the larger airways, it’s sometimes heard audibly. This is especially true if secretions surround your vocal cords. It may sometimes be confused for a wheeze.
Crackles.There are different kinds of crackles. Crackles are not commonly heard as a result of asthma. However, they sometimes do occur, which is why I define them here. They usually sound like when you pull velcro apart. A fine crackle (pop) when you inhale may indicate alveoli suddenly popping open. Coarse crackles on inspiration and expiration may indicate air moving through secretions. Crackles in one lobe may indicate pneumonia, as pneumonia is often isolated to one lobe.
What to make of this? These are some basic terms associated with lung sounds. Most of us asthmatics are well acquainted with stethoscopes. Most of us pay attention when the doctor says, “Take in a deep breath!” We usually oblige. Now you know what doctors are listening for.
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