A pneumothorax is defined as the presence of air or any other gas in the chest between the outside of the lungs and the inside of the chest wall. It is a painful and worrying experience commonly known as collapsed or punctured lung.
A pneumothorax occurs due to leakage of air into space between your lung and chest wall. This air pushes on the outside of the lung and makes it collapse. Pneumothorax can be a collapse of only a portion of the lung or complete lung collapse. The collapse can also put pressure on your heart, causing further symptoms.
There are different things which can cause pneumothorax, and symptoms can also vary broadly. Physicians can help to diagnose and treat it accurately.
The causes of pneumothorax are classified as either primary spontaneous, secondary spontaneous, traumatic or tension.
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Primary spontaneous pneumothorax
It is the most common type of pneumothorax which shows that it develops for no obvious reason in an otherwise healthy individual.
It is believed to be due to a small tear of an outer part of the lung which is usually near the top of the lung. Often, it is unclear why this occurs. However, the tear usually occurs at the site of a tiny bulla on the edge of a lung.
A bulla or bleb is just like a small balloon of tissue. It may develop on the edge of a lung. A bulla is a large blob. The wall of the bulla or bleb is not as strong as normal lung tissue and may rip. Air then leaks from the lung but gets stuck between the lung and the chest wall.
Most occur in healthy adults who do not have any lung disease and is more common in tall thin individuals.
And thats not all, it is 22 times more common in men who smoke than who don’t. And 9 times more common in women who smoke than in those who don’t smoke. This is because cigarette smoke appears to make the wall of bleb even weaker and more likely to tear.
Secondary spontaneous pneumothorax
Secondary spontaneous pneumothorax means that the pneumothorax develops as a complication of existing lung disease. Further, it is more likely to occur if the lung disease deteriorates the edge of the lung. Thus, making its edge more likely to tear and allow air to escape from the lung.
Consequently, for instance, a pneumothorax may develop as a problem of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), especially where lung bullae have developed in this disease. Other lung diseases which may be complicated by a pneumothorax include;
- Cystic fibrosis
- Lung cancer
- Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
Under certain conditions, children are also at risk for Secondary spontaneous pneumothorax. Its causes in children include;
- congenital malformations
- inhaling a foreign object
Moreover, the risk may even be higher if a family member has previously experienced this.
It occurs as a result of an impact or injury. Potential causes comprise blunt trauma or an injury damaging the pleural space and chest wall.
In addition, a traumatic pneumothorax can occur even if there is no obvious wound on the chest. This condition is more common in individuals who have experienced blast trauma from an explosion.
Any of the types of pneumothorax discussed above can turn into a tension pneumothorax. Basically, it is caused by a leak in the pleural space which resembles a one-way valve.
When a person inhales, the air escapes into the pleural space and becomes trapped which cannot be released during an exhale. This practice causes increased air pressure in the pleural space. It is life-threatening and requires immediate treatment.