Easier Breathing: What is Pneumothorax and Its Causes


Easier Breathing What is Pneumothorax and Its Causes


What Does Pneumothorax Mean?

A pneumothorax, or a collapsed lung in other words, occurs when air gets into the space between the lung and the chest wall. This excess of air presses on the organ thus causing it to collapse either partially or completely. It is important to be aware of its symptoms and causes so as to ensure timely medical intervention.

Causes of Pneumothorax

Causes for a pneumothorax can vary from illnesses to traumas to our ways of life.


  • Bronchial asthma: Asthma’s inflammation narrows up breathing tubes leading sometimes to airing in pleural space.
  • Pneumonia: This infection may generate air sacs (blebs or bullae) that can burst leading to a pneumothorax.
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease): Chronic bronchitis and emphysema among others would damage lungs tissues such that it becomes easy for them to leak out air.
  • Connective tissue diseases such as collagen vascular diseases: These contribute significantly towards pneumothorax.
  • Cystic Fibrosis: This genetic disorder leads to production of thick mucus which blocks airways and damages lungs hence increasing chances of experiencing pneumothorax
  • Emphysema: Emphysema destroys lung tissue, creating large air spaces that can lead to a collapsed lung.
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis: In this condition, scars form in the lungs which can provide avenues for air leaks.
  • Lung Cancer: Lung tumors may disrupt the structure of the lungs leading to pneumothorax.
  • Tuberculosis: Cavities are formed in the lung as a result of infection and inflammation from tuberculosis, thus increasing risk of air leakage.
  • Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS): Severe inflammation of the lung in ARDS can cause damages that enhance likelihoods of a collapsed lung.Injuries
  • Lymphangioleiomyomatosis: This rare disease causes abnormal growth of smooth muscles in the lungs resulting in cystic spaces that could collapse.


  • Blunt Force Trauma: Pneumothorax can be caused by forceful impact on the chest such as during accidents like falls or car crashes.
  • Penetrating Injuries: Air leakage happens when either sharp things like knives or a bullet go directly through and puncture one’s lungs.
  • Medical Procedures: Sometimes interventions such as mechanical ventilation or even lung biopsies could accidentally result into pneumothorax occurrences.

Types of Collapsed Lungs

Pneumothorax is subdivided into two major kinds: spontaneous and traumatic.

Spontaneous Pneumothorax 

  • Primary Spontaneous Pneumothorax: Develops in persons with no prior lung diseases. The rupture of air-filled sacs on the surface of the lungs, called blebs or bullae, can occur spontaneously leading to lung collapses.
  • Secondary Spontaneous Pneumothorax: Occurs more commonly in individuals suffering from underlying lung diseases such as COPD, cystic fibrosis, or tuberculosis. As such conditions are there lung tissue becomes weaker thereby increasing vulnerability to air leakage.

Traumatic Pneumothorax

  • Blunt or Penetrating Trauma: Lung may collapse due to accidents resulting from a violent collision or direct chest piercing.
  • Iatrogenic Pneumothorax: Some medical procedures that are aimed at diagnosing or treating specific cases like lung biopsies and mechanical ventilation might disrupt pulmonary tissues causing pneumothorax.

The Bottom Line

The first step towards effective management and treatment involves recognizing the symptoms and understanding the causes of pneumothorax. This awareness raising will help us manage and prevent further deaths caused by this disease that sometimes leads to death thus making it risky for our lives today and beyond since we cannot live without breathing oxygen which is brought by the air we inhale.

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