Pneumothorax is a lung condition where air accumulates into the space between the lung and the chest wall. This air build-up outside the lungs puts external pressure on the lung and inhibits the lungs from expanding to its normal size and volume during inhalation. This in turn causes the lung(s) to collapse partially or totally. Pneumothorax may be caused by a number of causes which have been discussed later in this advocacy sheet.
1. My sister has been diagnosed with pneumothorax. What has caused this condition?
The causes are varied and depend on the medical history of your sister. In some cases the cause is not identifiable, i.e., it is idiopathic and can happen to persons with or without prior chronic lung conditions. However, some of the known causes are as follows:
• Injuries that cause severe air-wave shocks like blasts
• Direct impact injuries on the lungs caused in accidents, stabs, bullets, etc.
Secondary spontaneous pneumothorax is brought on by diseases such as:
• Lung cancer
• Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
• Necrotising Pneumonia
• Cystic fibrosis
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Endometriosis in chest
• Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis,
• Congenital malformations
• Histiocytosis x
• Systemic sclerosis
• Genetic disorders such as Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome
• Marfan's syndrome and
• Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
It may also occur in those who smoke, scuba dive or do high altitude flying.
2. What symptoms will she be exhibiting besides tightness of chest and inability to breathe?
This depends upon the cause of her pneumothorax. Primary spontaneous pneumothorax causes chest pain and sometimes mild breathlessness.
Secondary spontaneous pneumothorax causes hypoxia (decreased blood oxygen levels), cyanosis (blue discoloration of the lips and skin), rapid heart rate, nasal flaring, hypercapnia (accumulation of carbon dioxide in the blood), confusion and coma, and/or sudden breathlessness.
Traumatic pneumothorax causes severe chest pain and inability to breathe, and tightness in chest.