Collapsed Lung

A lung collapses when air enters the pleural space, which lies between the membranes (pleura) that line the chest cavity and the lungs. Although this can occur without a person having any symptoms, usually there is sudden, sharp chest pain, shortness of breath, and occasionally, a dry, hacking cough. With an open pneumothorax, out side air enters the space through a wound that penetrates the chest. With a closed pneumothorax, air may leak from the lungs or airways, either because of an injury or a spontaneous rupture. The latter, referred to as a simple spontaneous pneumothorax, sometimes occurs in a normal, healthy person who has a congenital weakness in part of a lung. This condition is most common among otherwise healthy young men, but it can occur at any age in both sexes. A complicated pneumothorax also involves a spontaneous rupture, but the condition is worsened by the presence of other lung diseases, such as emphy sema or cystic fibrosis. It occurs mostly in middle aged and older people.

Diagnostic Studies And Procedures

If apneumothorax is suspected, a doctor first listens to the chest sounds with a stethoscope, and then orders chest X-rays. In some cases, more invasive procedures such as thoracoscopy may be performed. For this examination a catheter with lighting devices is inserted into the chest cavity so that the doctor can view the pleural membranes and the space between them.

Medical Treatments

A small, simple, spontaneous pneumothorax that is confined to a limited portion of the lung often does not require any treatment other than repeated X-rays to make sure that it is healing on its own. A larger rupture is treated by inserting a tube into the chest cavity to allow air to escape from the pleural space. If the rupture is extensive, it may be necessary to insert a needle into the chest to remove the air. Needle insertion may also be required if the pneumuothorax is increasing in size. As a last resort, surgery may be performed to correct an underlying problem. Some patients have repeated occurrences of pneumothorax; in such cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the weakened segments of the lung. This procedure effectively prevents any future ruptures from occurring.

Alternative Therapies

A collapsed lung should always be treated immediately by a doctor. Alternative therapies can be applied as an adjunct approach during convalescence. These measures are also effective in treating some of the respiratory problems that increase the risk of a collapsed lung.

Herbal Medicine

Hyssop and lung wort teas or decoctions are advocated for treating mild lung problems and promoting respiratory health. Herbalists also suggest garlic because of its ability to fight off infection, build immunity, and generally strengthen the respiratory tract.

Nutrition Therapy

Vitamins A and C are said to strengthen the immune system and heal inflamed lung tissue. Some practitioners also believe that magnesium is beneficial to the muscles used in breathing. In general, maintaining a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables will help promote healthy respiratory function.


In this form of massage, application of pressure to certain points on the feet and hands relieves tension in specific areas of the body. Lung disorders are treated by pushing the knuckles of the fist against the base of the patient’s toes and the ball of the foot. Pressing on the tips of the fingers and the middle of the palm is believed to improve breathing.

Self Treatment

There is no self treatment for a collapsed lung, because the situation may deteriorate very rapidly into a medical emergency. If you think you have this condition, go immediately to the nearest hospital emergency room. As a follow up to medical treatment, good self care may help prevent a recurrence, especially if bronchitis, emphysema, or another chronic lung disorder is present. If you are a smoker, make every effort to stop, and avoid smoke filled environments. If your job involves exposure to toxic substances or fumes, protect your lungs with the proper safety equipment. People with chronic lung disorders should also avoid going outdoors on days when the air pollution index is high.

Other Causes of Chest Symptoms

Chest pain accompanied by shortness of breath may be caused by angina or a heart attack. Breathing problems may also signal heart failure. Pneumonia and pleurisy, inflammation of the pleural membranes, may cause chest pain that feels similar to the pain of pneumothorax. Anxiety and panic attacks can also produce similar symptoms, particularly pressure in the chest.

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