Pneumothorax: When Lung Collapses

Although the description of pneumothorax sounds scary, in most cases the condition is treatable and not life-threatening. Learn more about pneumothorax, its symptoms and ways to treat in order not to overlook it when your relative or you experience it, because it can be dangerous if neglected.

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Although the description of pneumothorax sounds scary, in most cases the condition is treatable and not life-threatening. Learn more about pneumothorax, its symptoms and ways to treat in order not to overlook it when your relative or you experience it, because it can be dangerous if neglected.

Pneumowhat?

Pneumothorax can also be called a punctured lung. It implies air leakage: instead of staying within your lungs, the air you breathe gets stuck between the chest wall and the collapsed lung. In most cases, the collapse seen is only partial. The space where the air is stuck, which is called the pleural space, can also be filled with a liquid.

It is the pressure that prevents the lung from expanding properly. The pressure the air puts must be eliminated, and the aim of treatment is to let the lung expand again instead of collapsing.

What are the causes?

Sometimes the causes of spontaneous pneumothorax remain unknown. However, there are cases in which the cause belongs to one of the following categories:

  • Lung disease. COPD, pneumonia and some other lung problems can result in pneumothorax.
  • Air blisters. Actually, it’s a part of the lung disease section, but it is often mentioned as a separate cause. The surface of your lungs can have small blebs on it, which can burst, thus creating a gate for air to go through.
  • Injury. Chest penetrations can be a result of accidents and attacks, such as stabbing or car crashes. In this case, the amount of leaked air is so significant that the condition becomes life-threatening, because the more the lung is affected by pressure, the worse the condition of the patient.
  • Mechanical ventilation can also cause pneumothorax if used improperly.

Am I in the high-risk group?

Among the risk factors associated with pneumothorax are:

  • Being a male. It is reported that men are more prone to this problem than are women.
  • Smoking. This habit increases your chances of experiencing pneumothorax to such a great extent, that it is considered one of the key risk factors.
  • Being 20-40 years of age. Surprisingly, it’s a thing that prefers the young. Another important thing to mention is that it is more likely to happen to those who are underweight and tall.
  • Suffering from a lung disease. Many cases of pneumothorax appear to be a consequence of a lung disease.
  • History of pneumothorax. If you have already experienced one, you have more chances to experience another, compared to other people who have never had such a problem. In many cases, the next one follows the first pneumothorax within a couple of years.

How do I know if I have pneumothorax?

Among the most common symptoms is breathing shortage and pain.
Because of the collapsed lung, you do not get enough oxygen, which results in bluish skin and breathing problems.

The pain can be described as sharp. This may not be true for all patients, but if the lung collapses only partially, the pain is felt while inhaling, at the point when your lung makes an attempt to expand but cannot do it because of the pressure.

If you feel that you cannot breathe deeply because of pain or some other strange feeling, do not hesitate to consult your GP. In most cases an X-ray scan is enough to see where the leakage is.

If you are diagnosed with pneumothorax, the treatment can vary depending on what part of your lung is affected. If the pneumothorax is small, it can be left to heal itself (however, it should be monitored regularly). If it’s large enough to be considered significant, the air that is stuck will be removed using a needle.

If you feel pain in your chest, do not ignore it. It can be a sign of a serious health problem, and all pneumothoraxes, regardless of their size and symptom severity, must be treated by a pulmonologist.

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