Pneumothorax is a painful condition of the lung, commonly referred to as a collapsed lung. In a healthy body, lungs touch the walls of the chest. When air enters this space between the lung and the chest wall, called the pleural space, lung collapses partially or fully giving rise to pneumothorax.  Air enters this pleural space due to an injury or because of a leak in the lung. This lung collapse can exert pressure on the heart, impair oxygenation,and ventilation. At times pneumothorax can be a life-threatening event.

Symptoms of pneumothorax

In the initial stages of pneumothorax, symptoms may not be very prominent. The intensity of the symptoms also varies depending on what caused the lung collapse.In certain cases, symptoms are hardly noticeable and can be detected only through an x-ray or a scan.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain, tightness of the chest
  • Sometimes pain occurs in the shoulder and/or back
  • Dry cough due to irritation of the diaphragm
  • Shooting pain while inhaling
  • Rapid breathing
  • Getting tired or fatigued easily
  • Blue discoloration of skin or lips due to insufficient oxygen levels in the body
  • Loss of consciousness or coma

In the case of Tension Pneumothorax, cardiovascular collapse can occur which is life-threatening.

What causes pneumothorax?

Causes of pneumothorax can mainly be primary spontaneous pneumothorax (PSP), secondary spontaneous pneumothorax (SSP) and traumatic pneumothorax.

Primary spontaneous pneumothorax(PSP)

People with no known history of lung disease experience this due to various reasons such as:

  • Smoking tobacco or cannabis
  • Tall men
  • Family history of pneumothorax

Secondary spontaneous pneumothorax (SSP)

This is caused due to various lung diseases and is considered more dangerous than PSP.

  • Chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Lung cancer
  • Severe asthma

Connective tissue disorders also cause SSP

  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Marfan’s syndrome
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Polymyositis and dermatomyositis
  • Systematic sclerosis

Traumatic pneumothorax

This occurs when there is a trauma to the lungs. Assaults, accidents, fracture of the ribs, certain medical procedures cause a puncture in the chest wall leading to a collapsed lung. Few instances are:

Ruptured air blisters

Air blisters, which develop on the lungs, can burst to cause the air to leak into the pleural space.

Mechanical ventilation

People who need ventilators during emergencies have a chance of a collapsed lung due to an imbalance of air pressure within the chest.

Types of Pneumothorax

Tension pneumothorax and simple pneumothorax are two types of lung conditions that lead to a collapsed lung.  A rather rare type of pneumothorax that affects only women is called Catamenial pneumothorax.

Tension pneumothorax

This condition occurs due to pressure building up in the pleural space and leading to the collapse of one or both the lungs. It happens when inhaled air is trapped in the pleural space and cannot be let out through exhalation. Trapped air puts pressure on the chest walls leading to a lung collapse.Pressure in the lung cavity slows or stops the blood flow to the heart, affecting the cardiovascular system. With less blood flow into the arteries, blood pressure goes down affecting the vital organs in the body. Emergency medical help is required to save the life of a person.

Simple pneumothorax

 In this case, the lung collapses partially causing difficulty in breathing. It is not severe enough to lead to cardiovascular dysfunction. But, this too requires monitoring by the doctor to avoid complications in the future.

Catamenial pneumothorax

Catamenial pneumothorax is extremely rare and affects only women. The exact cause of catamenial pneumothorax is not known. According to observation, 72 hours before or after the menstrual cycle, cysts from inside a woman’s chest release blood between the lung and chest causing pneumothorax. Symptoms include chest pain that radiates to the shoulders. Most often, the right lung is affected. While treatment is similar to that of other forms of pneumothorax, doctors also recommend hormonal therapy.

Who is prone to Pneumothorax?


People who smoke tobacco and cannabis are at risk of a collapsed lung. Smoking also causes cancer. It also affects the ability to draw oxygen.

Mechanical ventilation

People who require assistance in breathing, using mechanical ventilation are at a higher risk of pneumothorax.

Family history

If there is a history of lung diseases in the family, then there is a chance of pneumothorax occurring.

Air blisters

Tall and underweight people aged between 20 and 40 years are prone to pneumothorax caused by ruptured air blisters.

Lung diseases

Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are most likely to have a collapsed lung.

Pneumothorax patients

Those that have experienced a collapsed lung are at risk of a recurrence.

Fractured ribs

People suffering from fractures of the rib due to an injury or osteoporosis, or malnutrition are very susceptible to a pneumothorax.

Premature babies

Children born prematurely often require oxygen support, as their lungs are not fully developed. In severe cases, they are put on mechanical ventilators making them prone to a collapsed lung.

How do specialists diagnose pneumothorax?

Diagnosing pneumothorax is complex because of the variety of symptoms and types.

  • Doctors do a clinical examination and find out the history of the patient, which includes habits, family history of lung diseases. The specialist checks for any abnormal sound while breathing
  • Specialists ask for an x-ray examination to check for abnormalities in the lung
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan is done for more detailed images especially in the case of trauma patients
  • Ultrasound imaging is also used to identify the size and severity of a pneumothorax
  • In the case of tension pneumothorax, the evidence of lung collapse is so clear that it calls for immediate medical attention to avoid further damage or death

Pediatric pneumothorax

Children without any known lung disease can get primary spontaneous pneumothorax. Among children, secondary spontaneous pneumothorax occurs due to congenital malformations, inhaling a foreign object, measles, and trauma to the chest.

Babies born prematurely have underdeveloped lungs, they are in an intensive care unit with oxygen support. Doctors need to monitor for any air leaks so that treatment can be given immediately.

What is the right time to seek medical help?

If a person experiences any one of the following symptoms of pneumothorax, then it is time to get immediate medical help. Anydelay can lead to serious complications.

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Trauma to the chest which can be due to an accident, a motor vehicle crash, fall on the ribs, gunshot, stab wounds which call for emergency medical assistance
  • Coughing blood post-injury

Treatment for pneumothorax

The extent of lung collapse determines the course of treatment along with the general medical condition of the patient. Treatment aims at relieving the pressure on the lungs and preventing recurrence of pneumothorax. For a successful recovery, it is crucial to understand the cause and the extent of the damage to the lung.


In minor cases with no symptoms, the lung expands on its own and does not require any medical intervention. Yet, it is important to visit the doctor regularly to assess the recovery. Breathing exercises are necessary to increase lung capacity.

Needle aspiration

In this procedure, a hollow needle with a flexible tube is inserted into the pleural space to suck out the air. While the needle is removed, the syringe witha catheter is allowed to remain inside for a few hours to ensure the lung expands.

Chest tube insertion

It involves inserting a chest tube to suck out the air. This chest tube is attached to a one-way valve to remove the air continuously until the lung expands.


With the help of a tiny fiber-optic camera, the surgeon makes a small incision to seal the leaking area. A larger incision may be needed in cases of bigger and multiple leaks. Maintaining airway pressure during the surgery is important and requires an experienced anesthesiologist.


This procedure is for patients with recurring pneumothorax. Pleurodesis aims at making the lung membranes stick to the chest cavity. Specialists inject medicine into the pleural space, which triggers an inflammatory reaction.  This ensures air and fluid do not accumulate. Once the pleura stick to the chest wall, it protects against the furtherformation of a pneumothorax. Patients must not consume any anti-inflammatory agents like ibuprofen or naproxen for at least 3 weeks.

Non-surgical repair

Doctors may prescribe medication to numb the pain, and to prevent infections.

Precautions to take during the healing process

Recovery from any illness depends not only on the treatment but also on the care taken during the process of healing.

  • In case of minor collapse of the lung, low-impact exercise along with rest helps the healing process. Make sure to follow your doctor’s advice as well as ensure you keep up the mandated medical checkups to monitor the progress
  • Avoid playing sports. Take care not to exert by doing strenuous exercises
  • Do not lift any heavy objects as it puts pressure on the breathing. Avoid activities such as vacuuming, lawn mowing as you can inhale dust particles. Wear a breathing mask if you are exposed to pollution
  • Keep track of any differences in breathing, chest pain, fever or any other complications. Be sure to inform the doctor accordingly
  • Avoid air travel for at least 3 weeks after the treatment
  • Do not travel to more than 7,500 feet above sea level. Higher altitudes have lower oxygen levels and can cause shortness of breath, called altitude sickness
  • Take pain medication as and when needed and prescribed by the doctor
  • Inform the doctor if the medication is not enabling relief

Is surgery an option for Pneumothorax?

Most serious cases of pneumothorax require surgery to correct the situation. In most of the emergencies like accident cases, rib fractures, and stab wounds, surgery is the only option to revive the lungs.

When is emergency medical help needed?

  • Recent or increased shortness of breath
  • Profuse sweating and a feeling of passing out
  • Fingernail, toes, and lips turning blue
  • Front of the neck or throat pushed to one side
  • Incoherent, exhibiting difficulty in thinking

Prognosis for Pneumothorax

  • Normal recovery from a collapsed lung takes up to 2 weeks. In minor cases of pneumothorax, there is complete recovery and people can get back to leading normal lives
  • In secondary spontaneous pneumothorax, there is a 50% chance of recurrence. It is important to follow your specialist’s advice to avoid recurrence
  • Tension pneumothorax is a very serious condition caused due to an injury. Immediate medical help is necessary for the patient’s survival
  • There is a chance of pneumothorax recurring in most people within one to two years of the first occurrence. Work with your doctor closely to manage the condition.
  • Avoid smoking, high altitude travel,and scuba diving to reduce the risk of a relapse
  • In cases of partial recovery from pneumothorax, lifestyle has to be altered to manage the collapsed lung


  • Men are more likely to get a pneumothorax
  • While smoking is directly related to the risk of pneumothorax, family history also contributes to the incidences of a lung collapse


  • Catamenial pneumothorax is very rare and often misdiagnosed
  • Tall and thin people are at high risk of this condition


  • Death from primary spontaneous pneumothorax is very rare but the recurrence rate is high among men.

Related Conditions

Want to live a healthy lifestyle?

Subscribe to free FactDr newsletters.


If you're enjoying our website, we promise you'll absolutely love our new posts. Be the first one to get a copy!

Get factually correct, actionable tips delivered straight to your inbox once a week.

I want the latest scoop on :

We hate spam too. We will never share your email address with anyone. If you change your mind later, you can unsubscribe with just one click

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the FactDr Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of FactDr subscriptions at any time.


Dos and Don'ts

  • Seek medical help if you are experiencing shortness of breath
  • Rest and take the medications as prescribed
  • Inform the doctor if you notice an increase in symptoms even after the treatment
  • Smoke
  • Travel to higher altitudes
  • Travel by air till complete recovery
  • Play sports and engage in tiring activities
  • Lift heavy objects




Related Conditions

Trending Topics

anal sex
Anal Sex : Tips from experts on how to be kinky yet safe Whether it irks you or stokes your fantasies, anal sex has always been an intriguing sexual act. Learn…
diverticulitis diet
Diverticulitis diet: The right way to eat if you suffer from the disease Are you suffering from diverticultis but clueless about your diet ? Read this complete plan for diverticulitis diet…
passion fruit juice
Passion fruit: How one exotic fruit can help you fight infections and cancer! Passion fruit: Why does this exotic fruit have such an enticing name? And how can it protect you…
Penis pump: Pump your way out of erectile dysfunction One of the options to treat erectile dysfunction is by the use of a penis pump. It is…
hidden benefits walking
9 benefits of walking we bet you didn’t know! Did you know walking can be the miracle pill for eternal youth? Everyone knows walking is good for…
Maltitol: Things you must know about this artificial sweetener Sugar alcohols are produced by fruits and vegetables. Maltitol is an artificially produced sugar alcohol and is used…
Jicama: A fiber-rich tuber for your weight loss goals Pronouced as HEE-kah-ma, Jicama is the "new kid on the block" that has taken the world by the…
maltodextrin sugar
Maltodextrin: What are the hidden health benefits of this food additive? Maltodextrin is one of the few food additives that has been relatively deemed safe. Many experts now have…
apple cider vinegar weight loss
Apple cider vinegar: Weight loss, shinier hair, and more! Did you know that apple cider vinegar, produced by the simple fermentation of apple juice, could hold the…
Clitoris: Why is it called the gateway to toe-curling female orgasms? The word clitoris comes from the Greek word kleitoris or “little hill.”  Many compare the female clitoris to…
Lectin: The common link of proteins between peas and people Lectins are a type of protein that are found majorly in legumes. Most people are find it easy…
eating disorder anorexia
Eating Disorders: Lifestyle choice or a psychological condition? Is eating disorder just a harmless bad habit? Or does it represent grim psychological disorders? Do you want…
Find the G spot: The top sex positions that guarantee an orgasm There has been a long debate as to whether the G-spot actually exists as a separate organ.  Can…
dandelion health benefits
Dandelion: Little parachutes of health and wellness for your whole body Dandelions are not just bright looking blossoms that cheer your mind. These are powerpacked with essential nutrients that…
kefir bottle
Kefir: Top reasons why this probiotic drink should be consumed by you Yet another remarkable fermented food, kefir is a much healthier version of yogurt. These chewy white grains can…
Female Masturbation: Tips on how to turn up the heat during a solo mission As a female, do you find yourself constantly wondering as to what is the best way to please…
liver detox facts
7 liver detox facts and why ignoring these could kill you! Are you taking care of this organ that handles over 500 different vital functions in your body? Your…
stress depressed anxiety
Are you depressed or just stressed? Know when to see a doctor Why are some people more anxious than others? Is being depressed the same as feeling sad? Have you…
eating myths debunked
8 ‘healthy eating’ myths you believed until now Is a zero-carb diet really healthy for you? Are organic products worth their cost? Did you know how…
yoga health benefits
How to practice yoga for astounding health benefits Can a 5000-year-old system be the ultimate body healer? Did you know yoga can make you smarter and…
How can Kegels help you overcome weak pelvic muscles & incontinence? Kegel exercises are pelvic floor strengthening exercises that can help you overcome incontinence issues that rise out of…
about mediterranean diet
Why you should be adopting a Mediterranean style of diet today Ever wondered why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy? One simple solution to lowering risk of several deadliest…
sleep deprivation
Don’t let your sleep deficit grow into memory loss or heart attack Why is sleep important for us? How could sleep deprivation harm you? We bet you didn't know about…
Pumpkin Seeds: Why pumpkins are more than just for pies! Pumpkins have been long associated with Halloween carvings and delicious pies. But did you know that pumpkin seeds…
Milk Thistle skin
Milk Thistle: Find possible cures for fatal diseases in these purple blooms Milk thistle is well-known for treating liver conditions. However, did you know that it comes with a plethora…
Love tea, hate tannins? Rooibos tea is just what you need The market is brimming with a multitude of herbal teas. But what makes rooibos tea (or red bush)…
The science behind daith piercing: Can it really cure migraine? Since the ear has several pressure points, it is believed that daith piercing activates the vagus nerve and…
lifestyle diseases
The Big 5 lifestyle diseases: How your everyday living might be killing you You'd be shocked to know how unhealthy and potentially fatal your everyday routine could be. Has the modern…
back pain relief
Don’t choose pain: 10 truths about your back ache (and how to get relief) Back pain is one of the most common ailments in the world. Almost 80% of the entire global…
Keto diet healthy
Keto Diet: Did you know you could eat fats to burn fats? Keto diet - A wonder diet that lets you eat fats and lose weight too! Read on to…
High Fiber Diet – Fire up your fiber intake for these health benefits! Regular bowels, healthy detox, higher immunity, and guaranteed weight loss - a high fiber diet can bring all…
Garlic health benefits cloves
Garlic: Nature’s white pill as an effective home remedy What are the secrets hidden in these tiny white pills? Find out the immense health benefits of using…
The right way to prepare Alfalfa sprouts at home Alfalfa or lusan ghas is not just a nutritious animal fodder. This flavonoid-rich herb has some amazing health…
nature health benefits
Green Healing: The amazing health benefits of being in nature You have no idea what sitting in a closed room does to your body and mind.Can a stroll…
turmeric skin
We bet you didn’t know that turmeric could be this beneficial! Did you know that turmeric, a humble ingredient found in most Indian kitchens could cure countless ailments and…
Salt dangers
Sodium chloride: The wonders and dangers of the simple table salt Sodium chloride is a salt containing sodium and chlorine ions at a 1:1 ratio. It is edible and…
Juice Plus: Can you really replace actual fruits with pills?  Juice Plus supplements intend to fill nutritional gaps present in our daily diet. But how successful have they…
CLA: A breakthrough weight loss supplement with minimal side effects Tried every weight loss supplement in the market with no substantial gain? Why not try CLA supplements, derived…
BRAT Diet: What is the right way to follow this diarrhea-relieving diet? BRAT diet, a simple diet consisting of just bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast, can help you combat the…
Appendix pain: Recent findings on this not-so vestigial organ The exact function of the appendix is still not clear. Some consider it as an organ that once…
Dragon Fruit – Blessing from Nature’s Basket The dragon fruit is packed with nutrients and yet low on calories and is the dream food that…
erectile dysfunction treatment
Erectile Dysfunction: Effective tips to help you get back on charge Erectile dysfunction is a common male sexual dysfunction. Don't stress out. Just follow these amazing tips to get…
Anhedonia: Does the chronic inability to feel joy affect you too? How often do you feel dragged down by an invisible force? Do you feel an inexplicable emotional numbness…
Experts reveal, how long does marijuana actually stay in your system… Weed or marijuana is one of the most widely abused recreational drug. But did you know how long…
hidden causes obesity
8 hidden causes of obesity you probably didn’t know! Did you know that around 2 billion people worldwide are either overweight or obese? Are you too a…
carrageenan seaweed
Carrageenan: How a simple seaweed extract could better your gut health & immunity Eat more ice cream to prevent cold and flu? –With carrageenan you get one simple seaweed extract that…
dance health benefits
5 unbelievable effects of dance on your overall health! You enjoy dancing, but did you know what else it does to your body? Dancing is not only…
Fluoride: An indispensible mineral or a potential toxin ? Fluoride, the main ingredient of toothpaste, has shown a great potential as a cleanser. However, how much fluoride…
Spirulina: Battle diabetes and cholesterol with this blue-green algae Spirulina, a species of salt water algae, has now become a billion dollar industry. How you can use…
improve digestion weight loss
Power up your gut: 8 proven steps on how to improve your digestion Did you know you have a colony of bacteria in your gut that help you in digesting food?…
ashwagandha brain
Ashwagandha: The best-kept secret of Ayurveda now revealed! Ashwagandha literally means "smell of horse". Don't get bogged down by that one tiny detail because this ayurveduic…
How accurate is the hair follicle drug test? Hair follicle drug test is one of the best ways to identify drug use in professional circles. But…
Is this is the real life? Is this just fantasy? – Decoding the myths of lucid dreaming Lucid dreaming or dreaming with a state of awareness has often intrigued the minds of experts worldwide. Do…
social media adddiction
Your health in the age of Social Media: Why is digital detox a necessity? Did you know that more than 400 million people are dangerously addicted to social media? Are you one…
oral hygiene tips
6 shocking consequences of bad oral hygiene (and how to avoid them) Did you know bad breath is not just turning off, but also harms your body in ways you…
Military diet
Military Diet : Why following a highly restrictive diet is a bad idea Is seiging your calorie intake the right way to attack fats? Read more about Military diet, a highly…
Tea Tree Oil : The one stop cure for skin ailments and more… The popularity of tea tree oil, an essential oil, as the ultimate skin care pick is not unheard…
Chromium Picolinate: An essential mineral supplement for faster weight loss Did you know that about 1.6 million deaths were directly linked to diabetes globally? How is it linked…
Kava: Is it the healthy substitute for alcohol you have been waiting for? Native to the beautiful South Pacific islands, Kava is a famous beverage rooted in the local culture. It…
Piaget stages: Do they accurately describe the way the human brain develops?  A common assumption was that children are less competent thinkers as compared to adults, but this was refuted…
What is the average penis size and why should you care? Scientifically speaking, the average size of the penis depends on numerous factors such as genes, environmental circumstances, etc.
Internal bleeding brain
Beware: Ignoring these tell-tale signs of stroke could cost a life The signs and symptoms of a stroke differ depending on which part of the brain has been affected.…
occupational hazards types
Occupational Hazards: How to vouch for your health at your workplace Occupational hazards affect millions worldwide. Chemical spills, faulty wires, deadly pathogen, and work-stress can happen anytime. Follow these…
aspartame or sugar
Aspartame – Hidden truths about this storm in a teacup Aspartame, the artificial sweetener, has gone under the scanner on several occasions for allegedly doing more harm than…
Isagenix diet
Isagenix Diet: Do you really need liquid meal replacements to lose weight? Isagenix Diet - What are liquid meal replacements and why is the world going ga-ga over them? Are…
green poop causes
Green poop : What are the reasons and how can you correct it Ever sneak a peek down the toilet only to shockingly find green poop? Why does our poop turn…
V for Vagina: How well do you know this extraordinary part of the female anatomy? Vagina - a simple part of the human anatomy that has often created a feeling of either digust…
fitness routine fun
10 fantastic ways to make your fitness routine more fun! Are you too bored to exercise? Do you avoid gym cause it's too monotonous? Looking for fun and…
alcohol toxic
7 startling facts that will make you quit alcohol today Does drinking really make you friendly and happy? How many calories does a can of cold beer add…
acne removal tips
Anatomy of acne: 7 instant steps to kiss those zits goodbye Blackheads, whiteheads, or pimples-call them what you may. Acne is never good news.Did you know some of the…
tips for perfect sleep
Stop hitting the snooze button: 8 proven steps to perfect sleep Are you tired of not getting enough sleep? All your efforts for a sound sleep going in vain?…
Manuka Honey Manuka honey is a specific type of honey produced by honey bees that collect nectar from the flowers…
sugar toxic health
Sugar: 7 new shocking truths revealed about the sweet poison Can drinking soda bring you closer to death? Is sugar slowly poisoning you and your family? You would…
boost brain health
The ultimate tips on how to boost your brain health Would you like to be smarter? Want a sharp memory but bored of doing sudoku? Try salsa or…
nutritional yeast bread
Nutritional Yeast : How can a fungi culture be good for your body? Nutritional yeast: How a simple culture of fungi can transform your skin, digestion, immunity , and much more.…
Improve sex life
9 best tips from around the world for better sex life How can the pungent-smelling garlic pack in a punch to your libido? How could something as slimy as…
gout diet purines
Gout Diet : Get relief from painful joints by eating these foods Are you a victim of this painful condition? Are medications providing only short relief? Find a list of…
Hydroquinone: Is it the best topical treatment for hyperpigmentation? Darkening of the skin due to high melanin levels is called hyperpigmentation.  Hydroquinone interferes with melanin production thus treating…
Quinine: How gin and tonic came to be known as a potent health elixir The discovery of quinine-containing tree bark is sometimes considered the most serendipitous medical discovery of the 17th century.
Vitamin C: The instant health benefits of adding the citrusy goodness to your diet Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that cannot be synthesized in your body and has to be obtained…
cancer facts
8 hard-hitting truths no one tells you about cancer Did you know that 1.5 million new cases of cancer are reported every year? Can second-hand smoking kill…
common mental disorders
Common mental health disorders :The silent stigma surrounding millions More than 300 million sufferers and yet a silent and agonizing stigma; why are people still hush-hush about…
quinoa salad
Quinoa : A prodigious superfood you need to include in your diet today! Quinoa - what is so special about this native South American grain that has taken the world by…
understanding addiction
Addiction explained: An obsession that could cost you your life Is addiction a behavioral disorder? Or is it a chronic disease? How does addiction cause chemical and structural…
iron food shellfish
Iron-Rich Foods: Eat these foods to keep fatigue and anemia away! How to ensure a muscles as strong as iron? Eat iron rich foods ! Iron is one of…
Legumes: Little pods of infinite nutrition you should consume daily The fruits and seeds of Fabaceae type of plants are called legumes.The most commonly used legumes are chickpeas,…
TBHQ: A carcinogen lingering in your child’s favorite snacks TBHQ - Why you should shun the practice of eating instant noodles or microwave popcorn to get rid…
DASH Diet: What to eat in a “Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension”? If you or your loved one is suffering from chronic hypertension (high blood pressure), dash towards a DASH…