A Pneumothorax is a collection of free air in the chest outside the lung that causes the lung to collapse. Pneumothorax occurs when air leaks into the space between your lungs and chest wall. This air pushes on the outside of your lung and makes it collapse. In most cases, only a portion of the lung collapses.
A spontaneous, or primary, Pneumothorax occurs in the absence of a traumatic injury to the chest or a known lung disease. This type can quickly heal on its own. A more complicated Pneumothorax occurs as a result of an underlying condition. In this case, the doctors usually insert a flexible tube or needle between the ribs to remove the excess air.
The main symptoms of a Pneumothorax include sudden chest pain and shortness of breath. The pain is sharp and may lead to feelings of tightness in the chest. But these symptoms can be caused by a variety of health problems, and some can be life-threatening.
Other symptoms include shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, cough, and fatigue. The skin might also develop a bluish color due to decreases in blood oxygen levels.
In certain cases, Pneumothorax might also occur for no obvious reason. In other cases, it can be caused by blunt or penetrating chest injuries that cause the lungs to collapse; certain medical procedures or a damage resulting from underlying lung disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis and pneumonia.. In addition, Pneumothorax can be caused by ruptured air blisters and mechanical ventilation, which can create an imbalance of air pressure within the chest. In such situations, the lung might collapse completely and the heart may be squeezed to the point that it can't work properly.
The lungs normally inflate by increasing the size of the chest cavity, resulting in a negative vacuum pressure in the pleural space. If air enters the pleural space either by a hole in the lung or the chest wall, the pressure in the pleural space equals the pressure outside the body. Thus, the vacuum is lost and the lung collapses.
Some risk factors include:
- The patient’s sex. In general, men are far more likely to have a Pneumothorax than are women.
- Age. More precisely, Pneumothorax caused by ruptured air blisters is most likely to occur in people between 20 and 40 years old, especially if the person is a very tall and underweight man.
- Genetics in the case of certain types of Pneumothorax.
- Underlying lung disease, especially chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Mechanical ventilation.
- A history of Pneumothorax.
Although it's often not possible to prevent a Pneumothorax, stopping smoking is an important way to reduce your risk of a first Pneumothorax and avoid a recurrence.