Spontaneous pneumothorax is a lung disease that may lead to partial or complete lung collapse. To know about the causes, symptoms and treatment for this, read on.
Spontaneous pneumothorax is also called lung collapse. It is said to be spontaneous, as there is no prolonged painful injury to the lungs or chest. It is a result of accumulation of unwanted air/gas between the chest and the lungs. This accumulated air, prevents the lungs from normal expansion during breathing.
As discussed earlier, lung collapse results from an undesirable collection of air or gas between the chest and lung. The lung does not inflate normally, due to the presence of this unwanted air/gas. It is of two types, i.e., primary spontaneous pneumothorax and secondary spontaneous pneumothorax.
Primary Spontaneous Pneumothorax
People without medical history of any lung diseases, suffer from primary spontaneous pneumothorax. Family history may lead to this type of the disease. Smoking is found to be the chief cause, in almost 80% of the cases. Change in atmospheric pressure and proximity to loud sound are also some of the causes. People below 40 years are mostly affected by this type of lung collapse. Usually, young people who are tall and thin are found to be affected by this, the reason still being unclear.
Secondary Spontaneous Pneumothorax
Person having any type of lung disease is prone to be affected by this type of collapse of the lungs. COPD is found to be the most common lung disease, which leads to secondary spontaneous pneumothorax. People above 60 years of age are mostly affected by this disease.
Given below, is the list of lung disorders that may cause this disease.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Lung cancer
- Cystic fibrosis
- Marfan syndrome
- Interstitial lung disease
The symptoms of spontaneous pneumothorax are not gradual and are observed suddenly, while resting or sleeping. Many of the symptoms are observed, while resting. Given below is the list of some of the symptoms:
- Increased respiratory rate
- Chest pain (pain increases, while breathing/coughing)
- Breathing problem (shortness of breath, unnatural breathing movements, trying to reduce the chest pain by holding it)
At the first stage of diagnosis, a stethoscope is used by the physician to check the breathing pattern. This reveals whether the breathing pattern is normal or not, and helps in further diagnosis. Chest X-ray can be performed, to confirm the diagnosis of spontaneous pneumothorax. The chest X-ray displays the amount of air that is trapped between the chest and the lung. Arterial blood gases may also be done, wherein the level of oxygen and carbon-dioxide in the blood is measured.
The treatment for spontaneous pneumothorax aims at removal of the unwanted air/gas present between the chest and the lungs and facilitates the normal expansion of the lungs. The form of treatment depends on the amount of air/gas gathered. Primary spontaneous pneumothorax gets cured without any treatment, if it is not severe. If the air has gathered in more amount, then the physician inserts a chest tube which removes the extra air/gas. For the implantation of chest tube, the patient needs to be hospitalized. If a large amount of air/gas has gathered, then chest tube may not prove useful at times. Moreover, it takes a long time for the lungs to expand normally, with the chest tube treatment. If a patient is found to be affected frequently by lung collapse, then he/she may have to undergo surgery. The doctor can also advise pleurodesis procedure to prevent lung collapse in future.
The most important precaution that can be taken to prevent spontaneous pneumothorax is to quit smoking. Avoiding places of high altitude and those that have loud noise, are other precautionary measures. Appropriate and timely treatment should be given to patients suffering from lung diseases, to prevent further complications like lung collapse.