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Pneumothorax - Symptom, Treatment And Causes

Last Updated: Sep 03, 2019

What is Pneumothorax?

Pneumothorax is a condition, whereby air gets collected in the plural cavity, the space between the chest wall and the lungs. This results in collapse of the lung on the affected part. The severity of this condition and the extent of the collapse depends on the amount of air that got deposited in the plural cavity.

What are the types of pneumothorax?

There are three types of pneumothorax or collapsed lungs:

1. Traumatic pneumothorax:

This type of pneumothorax happens due to some kind of trauma or injury on the chest or lung wall. The trauma can be so severe that it can also damage the structures of the chest thus causing the leakage of air into the pleural space. The cause can be the change in the air pressure due to mountain climbing or scuba diving. Altitude changes can result in the development of air blisters on your chest and then rupturing and further symptoms can lead to collapsing of lungs.

2. Nontraumatic pneumothorax:

This type of pneumothorax is not the result of any kind of injury and can happen spontaneously, therefore, it is also referred to as spontaneous pneumothorax.

There are subtypes of pneumothorax:

  • Primary spontaneous pneumothorax (PSP): PSP is mostly found in people who do not have any type of lung disease and the main target is males who are thin and tall.
  • Secondary spontaneous pneumothorax (SSP): SSP can be dangerous and can lead to various health problems like chronic bronchitis, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, asthma. while SSP is found in people who are suffering from any type of lung disease.

3. Tension pneumothorax:

This type of pneumothorax is fatal and can lead to entire lung collapse as it creates pressure inside the pleural cavity which is more than the atmospheric pressure. It creates pressure on both lungs and heart and pushes the heart towards the lungs.

What are the symptoms of pneumothorax?

First signs of of pneumothorax appears mostly at the time of injury or chest trauma, or there can be sudden chronic chest pain. The symptoms of pneumothorax are :

  • An ache in the chest
  • Cold sweat
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Cyanosis
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fast heart rate

What causes pneumothorax?

These are the causes of pneumothorax:

  • Lung Disease: If you have damages lung then it can lead to chronic lung disease as the damaged lung tissues collapse easily and can cause cystic fibrosis, pneumonia, and COPD.
  • Chest Injury: if chest is prone to an injury then it can lead to the collapse of the lungs and it can happen due to accident or medical process which involves needle insertion into the chest.
  • Mechanical Ventilation: if a person needs mechanical support for breathing then can have a severe type of pneumothorax as the ventilator creates an imbalance in breathing and pressure on the chest and making lung collapse completely.
  • Ruptured Air blisters: there is the formation of small air blisters on the top of the lungs and as the blisters sometimes burst thus leaking air into the space that surrounds the lungs.


How to diagnose pneumothorax?

The diagnosis of pneumothorax is based on the air space left around the lungs which are hard for the stethoscope to detect. Therefore some imaging tests are recommended by the doctor but it is very hard to interpret air pressure between the chest wall and lungs.

The common diagnostic methods for pneumothorax include:

  • CT scan
  • Thoracic ultrasound
  • Upright posteroanterior chest radiograph

What are the treatment options for pneumothorax?

The treatment of pneumothorax most of the times depend upon the severity The actual aim of the treatment is to relieve the pressure on your lungs thus allowing it to re-expand. The second aim is to prevent reoccurrence of the disease thus saving the lung to collapse. The treatment options include observation, needle aspiration, chest tube insertion, nonsurgical, surgery repair.

  1. Observation: Doctor observes your lungs if a small portion of your lungs has collapsed. The lungs will be monitored as well as the X-rays will also be done until all the extra air is completely absorbed the lungs start to expand again. But this is a time taking process.
  2. Needle aspiration: A hollow needle attached with a small flexible tube is placed between the ribs of the patient into the space filled with air which is creating a pressure on the collapsed lungs. This helps the doctor to remove the excess air and it is ensured that pneumothorax does not occur again.
  3. Chest tube insertion: Air is continuously removed from the chest cavity with the help of a flexible tube which is inserted into the air-filled space and another valve is connected to the one-way valve device.
  4. Nonsurgical repair: in this, the leak is sealed by using a substance which irritates tissues present around the lungs so that they stick together and seal the area. A chest tube is used to complete the process.
  5. Surgery: at times surgery is the last option left to seal the air leak.

Can pneumothorax be cured?

The disease can be cured or not that depends upon the severity of the disease. At times collapsed lung can become a life-threatening but it can be cured with the help of treatment and excess air can be removed from the chest.

How long can you live with a collapsed lung?

How long a person can live with the collapsed lungs depends upon the medical conditions of the person and it also states that how long the person needs to stay at the hospital. If a person is healthy then the disease may heal in a few days and that too without treatment, while if a person is suffering from any chronic lung disease and has got pneumothorax then there is a requirement of treatment and it will take the required time.

How to cure pneumothorax naturally?

These are the ways in which pneumothorax can be cured naturally:

  • Steam therapy: this helps in cleaning the lungs by draining out mucus from the lungs as it involves inhaling of water vapour. It also improves breathing by providing immediate release.
  • Controlled coughing: this is the way in which toxins are released from the body naturally as it loosens the mucus present in the lungs.
  • Exercise: if a person exercise on a regular basis then the mental and physical health of the person improves reducing the risk of stroke and heart diseases. This will also result in increasing the breathing rate of the body and there is a supply of oxygen to muscles.
  • Green tea: helps in reducing inflammation in the lungs as it contains antioxidants.

What is the best diet for lungs healing?

Best food for lungs healing:

Foods that should be eaten to keep your diet healthy are water, fatty fish, apricots, apples, broccoli, walnuts, poultry, beans, berries.


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Written ByDr. Mool Chand GuptaMD - Pulmonary,MD PULMONARY,DTCDPulmonology
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