Crackly Lungs: 16 Top Causes

What is Cracky Lungs?

Cracky Lungs

Cracky Lungs

Crackling in the lungs is a condition that is caused by fluid build-up inside the lungs. Crackle sounds usually occur when the lungs inflate or deflate. Crackle sounds usually brief, and may be described as sounding wet or dry. Excess fluid in the airways causes these sounds.

If both lungs are presenting a crackling sound, the medical conditions refer to it as bilateral crackles.


Why the Crackling Noise Occur from Lungs?

Crackling in the lungs usually reflects a buildup of fluid, mucus or pus in the small airways. This is commonly due to lung disease, such as pneumonia or another respiratory disorder. The crackles can be heard whenever the small airways explosively open.


Types of Crackles Lung Sounds

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


Symptom of Crackly Lungs

Depending on the cause, crackles may occur with other symptoms. These symptoms can include:

  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue
  • chest pain
  • the sensation of suffocation
  • a cough
  • a fever
  • wheezing
  • swelling of the feet or legs
  • coughing up mucus
  • unintended weight loss
  • Tightness in chest
  • Blue or purple lips
  • Hoarse voice
  • Pale skin
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Excessive sweating
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Crackly Lungs Causes

Crackly Lungs Causes

Crackly Lungs Causes


Pneumonia is an infection in your lungs. It may be in one or both lungs. The infection causes air sacs in your lungs to become pus-filled and inflamed.


The bronchitis symptoms may include bibasilar crackles, a severe cough which brings up mucus, and wheezing.

Pulmonary Edema

People with congestive heart failure (CHF) often have pulmonary edema. CHF occurs when the heart cannot pump blood effectively. This result in a backup of blood, which increases blood pressure and causes fluid to collect in the air sacs in the lungs and cause cracking.Some non-cardiac causes of pulmonary edema are:

  • lung injury
  • high altitudes
  • viral infections
  • smoke inhalation
  • near drowning

Pulmonary Fibrosis

Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) refers to a family of related diseases that result in scarring of the lungs.


Atelectasis is the collapse of the lung. In can be the partial collapse of the lung or a complete collapse. There are many potential causes for atelectasis, include:

  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Lung Tumors
  • Fluid in the Lung
  • Physical Trauma
  • Respiratory Weakness

Interstitial Lung Disease

Interstitial lung diseases deal with disorders pertaining to the air sacs and tissues in the lungs. This cause fluid gets trapped in the scarred tissues, causing crackling sounds.


Asthma is a disorder that causes the airways to swell and produce more mucus. This condition causing wheezing as well as a crackling sound wen coughing or breathing.


A tumor can cause lung crackles depending where in the lungs or airway it’s located. If it’s in the trachea or vocal cord area, wheezing or stridor sounds are more likely. If the tumor is in the lung itself, rales or rhonchi might arise.

Lung Infection

Lung infection is a leading cause of crackling in the lungs. The infection leads to pus and mucus accumulation in the air sacs, with accompanying crackles.

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Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Obstructive lung diseases typically cause wheezing but can also cause lung crackles, primarily due to excess mucus in the airways.

Heart Failure

The damaged of heart can cause a buildup of fluid within the lungs, leading to crackling.

Post-Nasal Drip

Post-nasal drip can make its way down your throat and into your lungs, leading to lung crackling. Popping and crackling in lungs while lying down is often a sign of postnasal drip. Also known as upper airway cough syndrome, this condition occurs when excessive mucus is produced in the nasal mucosa.


When the vocal cords become swollen, it’s referred to as “Croup”. It’s oftentimes caused by a viral infection.


Emphysema is when the air sacs within the lungs stop doing what they’re supposed to. You may develop wheezing and have difficulty exhaling, along with crackles.

Pulmonary Embolism

A blood clot in the lungs, known as pulmonary embolism

Idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension

IPAH is a rare respiratory disease characterized by elevated pulmonary artery pressure. This condition causes increased blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries and the right side of the heart.


Diagnostic Test for Crackly Lungs

  • stethoscope examination
  • a chest X-ray or CT scan of the chest to view your lungs
  • blood tests to check for an infection
  • sputum tests to help find the cause of infection
  • pulse oximetry to measure your blood oxygen level
  • an electrocardiogram or echocardiogram to check for heart irregularities



Crackles in lungs treatmentwill vary through underlying respiratory condition. There are certain home remedies and medication treatment that will help.

Home remedies:

  • a humidifier to put moisture in the air and to relieve a cough
  • hot tea with lemon, honey, and a dash of cinnamon to help relieve a cough and fight infection
  • steam from a hot shower or a steam tent to help loosen phlegm
  • a healthy diet to boost your immune system
  • using cough suppressant
  • ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve cough and fever
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Other Medication:

  • inhaled steroids to reduce airway inflammation
  • bronchodilators to relax and open your airways
  • Antibiotics (for bacterial pneumonia or bronchitis, useless for viral causes)
  • oxygen therapy to help you breathe better
  • pulmonary rehabilitation to help you stay active
  • Surgery to remove infection or fluid buildup, or to remove a lung altogether.
  • A lung transplant


  • Quit Smoking
  • Avoid exposure to environmental toxins
  • cover your mouth and nose with a mask
  • Prevent infection by washing your hands frequently
  • Avoid crowds during the cold and flu season
  • Get a pneumonia vaccine
  • Get a flu vaccine
  • Exercise regularly
  • Healthy Diet
  • avoid lung irritants such as dust and molds
  • stay well-hydrated
  • get plenty of rest
  • Stay out from obesity


Risk Factors that Increase Crackles in the Lungs Symptom

  • Smoking
  • Lung trauma or surgery
  • Living or working in an area with high air pollution
  • Obesity

Family or personal history of lung disease

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