Signs that pneumothorax is present will depend on how much air is between the pleura, how much of the lung collapses and how well the lungs were working before the pneumothorax occurred. Symptoms can range from a little shortness of breath or chest pain to severe shortness of breath, shock and potentially fatal cardiac arrest. Most often, sharp chest pain and shortness of breath and occasionally a dry, hacking cough begin suddenly. Pain may also be felt in the shoulder, neck or abdomen. If the pneumothorax developed slowly, the symptoms are usually less severe. Symptoms normally subside as the body adapts to the collapse of the lung, and the lung slowly begins to reinflate as it absorbs air back from the space between the pleura
Causes and Risk Factors
A pneumothorax may occur for no apparent reason. Sometimes it occurs because a rupture develops in a small, weakened area of the lung that leaks air into the pleura, most often in older people who have emphysema. It can also be associated with cystic fibrosis, Langerhans cell granulomatosis, sarcoidosis, lung abscess, tuberculosis and pneumocystis pneumonia.
Sometimes pneumothorax occurs during diving or high-altitude flying, probably as a result of air pressure changes in the lungs. A pneumothorax may follow an injury or a medical procedure allows air to get into the pleural space. Tall men who are younger than 40 are most at risk for developing a pneumothorax.