Collapsed Lung-Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Treatment

Collapsed lung is widely known as pneumothorax and this occurs when the air is leaked into the space between the wall of the chest and the lungs. As air is occupying this space, it exerts pressure on the lung which makes it difficult for the lung to expand during breathing, or in other words the lung collapses, hence the term collapsed lung. Majority of the cases of pneumothorax only affects one portion of the lungs. The cause of pneumothorax can be due to a penetrating or blunt chest injury. Furthermore, collapsed lung may result from certain medical procedures that involve the lungs or damages done to the lungs due to underlying disease.

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There are times when pneumothorax happens for no reason at all. Referred to as spontaneous pneumothorax, this occurs when the bleb (a small part of the lung containing air) bursts, releasing the air on the space surrounding the lung. One can determine that it maybe pneumothorax because it causes abrupt chest pain coupled with shortness of breath.

Cases of collapsed lung vary in severity. If it is just small, it could heal on its own without the need for intervention. On the other hand, if it is large pnuemothorax, doctors will have to use a needle or tube to remove the excess air from the space around the lungs to relieve the lungs from the pressure.


The most common symptoms of pneumothorax are:

• Shortness of breath – the level can either be acute or mild which depends on how much air has accumulated in the space between the chest wall and the lungs and sometimes added with previous lung diseases or chest injury.

• Chest pain – the pain does not happen at the center of the chest which is underneath the breast bone. The pain is abrupt and sharp which is felt on the side of the affected lung. The pain does not worsen when you breathe.

Most of the time chest pains and difficulty breathing are symptoms of other diseases but it is essential to seek your doctor if you happen to experience the symptoms mentioned above. The chest pain or shortness of breath may not directly point to this disease but it is necessary so that the doctors will be able to determine whether you have a collapsed lung or not.


The causes of pneumothorax can be due to a lung disease, chest injury or blebs – air blisters that are ruptured; whereas other cases occur for no reason, as mentioned above.

In the case of chest injuries, it can be the result of a penetrating or blunt injury – any incident which results to a part of your lungs being injured such as from a car crash, stabs from knives due to physical assault. Other cases occur due to medical surgeries that happen to involve the lungs. Below are some examples:

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• A scope procedure that goes down the throat and on to the lungs.

• Biopsies involving the needle where a needle is used through the wall of the chest.

• Chest tube insertion.

• CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

• A case of fractured ribs which may sometimes result to puncturing of the lung.

• Deployment of the air bag of the vehicle.

• Gunshot or knife wounds.

• Blunt trauma caused by a car crash or a blow.

The most common underlying lung disease which will result to collapsed lung is a damaged lung tissue. The lung damage is caused by various types of other fundamental diseases which include:

• Sarcoidosis

• Pulmonary fibrosis

• Lung cancer

• Cystic fibrosis

• Pneumonia

• Tuberculosis

• Emphysema


The risk factors involving collapsed lung are:

• Gender –Males are more likely to develop pneumothorax compared to females.

• Genetics – There are certain kinds of pneumothorax that runs in the blood.

• Pneumothorax history – A person who had a previous pneumothorax will likely have another pneumothorax either on the opposite lung or the lung which was previously affected. This happens sometimes within the span of one or two years of the first experience.

• Mechanical ventilation – There are people for which it is a necessity to have mechanical ventilation in order to properly breathe. These people are at high risk of acquiring pneumothorax.

• Smoking – Even if there is no emphysema, a disease where the conditions of the lungs are denoted by decreased respiratory function, smokers are at high risk of acquiring pneumothorax.

• Age – Blebs, or ruptured air blisters, are some of the causes of pneumothorax. This likely occurs to people in the ages between twenty and forty, particularly if they are underweight and tall.

• Lung disease – Most of the time, underlying diseases cause pneumothorax.

There are certain treatments done to relieve the pressure from the collapsed lung. This depends on how mild or acute the case of your pneumothorax is. Observation and monitoring is done for mild cases. With acute cases, there is a need to recourse to either chest tube or needle insertion. If the chest tube process does not resolve the case, surgery may be an option to close the leak.

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