Collapsed Lung Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
About Collapsed Lung Symptoms
A collapsed lung occurs when air escapes from the lung. The air then fills the space outside of the lung, between the lung and chest wall. This buildup of air puts pressure on the lung, so it cannot expand as much as it normally does when you take a breath.
The medical name for this condition is pneumothorax.
Causes Collapsed Lung
Collapsed lung can be caused by an injury to the lung. Injuries can include gunshot or knife wound to the chest, rib fracture, or certain medical procedures.
In some cases, a collapsed lung is caused by air blisters (blebs) that break open, sending air into the space around the lung.This can result from air pressure changes such as when scuba diving or traveling to a high altitude. Tall, thin people and smokers are more likely to have a collapsed lung. Lung diseases can also increase the chance of getting a collapsed lung. These include:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Whooping cough
In some cases, a collapsed lung occurs without any cause. This is called a spontaneous pneumothorax or collapsed the lung.
Collapsed Lung Symptoms
Common symptoms of a collapsed lung include:
- Sharp chest pain, made worse by a deep breath or a cough
- Shortness of breath
- Nasal flaring
A larger pneumothorax causes more severe symptoms, including:
- Bluish color of the skin due to lack of oxygen
- Chest tightness
- Easy fatigue
- Rapid heart rate
Treatment Collapsed Lung
A small pneumothorax may go away on its own. You may only need oxygen treatment and rest. The health care provider may use a needle to pull the extra air out from around the lung so it can expand more fully. You may be allowed to go home if you live near the hospital.
If you have a large pneumothorax, a chest tube will be placed between the ribs into the space around the lungs to help drain the air and allow the lung to re-expand. The chest tube can be left in place for several days. You may need to stay in the hospital. If a small chest tube or flutter valve is used, you may be able to go home. You will need to return to the hospital to have the tube or valve removed.
Some patients with a collapsed lung need extra oxygen. Lung surgery may be required to treat collapsed lung or to prevent future episodes. The area where the leak occurred may be repaired. Sometimes, a special chemical is placed into the field of the collapsed lung. This chemical causes a scar to form. This procedure is called pleurodesis.