Fabry disease is an X-linked inborn error of metabolism resulting from deficient activity of alpha-galactosidase A. Although several case reports have suggested an association between Fabry disease and airway obstruction, this has not been investigated in a large series of patients. We studied 25 unselected, consecutive, enzymatically diagnosed men referred to a General Clinical Research Center for evaluation. Thirty-six percent complained of dyspnea, and 24% had cough and/or wheezing. Symptoms were similar in smokers and nonsmokers. Nine (36%) had airway obstruction on spirometry; this finding was associated with age > or = 26 yr (p < 0.05) and dyspnea or wheezing (p < 0.005), but only weakly with smoking (p = 0.062). Five of eight patients responded to bronchodilators, but all 10 methacholine challenges were negative. Chest radiographs revealed normal lung fields in 24 patients and streaky bibasilar densities in one. No pulmonary uptake occurred on 67Ga citrate scans (18 patients) and 111In-tagged leukocyte scans (16 patients). Specific alpha-galactosidase A mutations were identified in 17 patients; all three patients with frameshift mutations and both subjects with the D264V missense mutation had obstructive impairment. We conclude that airway obstruction commonly occurs in patients with Fabry disease regardless of smoking history, and it increases with age. The presence of obstruction may be associated with certain mutations and most likely results from fixed narrowing of the airways by accumulated glycosphingolipid.