Patients with tracheomalacia may find it difficult to swallow food. Symptoms of tracheomalacia include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic cough, with or without blood
- Recurring respiratory tract infections
Causes and Risk Factors
Tracheomalacia is rare. In the case of Type I tracheomalacia, the risk factor is immaturity of the tracheal cartilage. Often, as the infant grows, the cartilage structure improves and the condition resolves on its own. Tracheomalacia can also be associated with developmental disorders such as cardiovascular defects, esophageal diseases and gastroesophageal reflux (GERD).
Adults may be at risk for tracheomalacia due to a weakening of the muscles surrounding the trachea as they age. This may create an inability to keep the trachea rigid for normal breathing. Other risk factors include:
- Prolonged intubation, especially in patients who have had a tracheostomy, the construction of an artificial opening through the neck into the trachea, to relieve breathing difficulties.
- Chronic infection and inflammation.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Injury to the trachea.
- Tumors, benign or malignant, compressing the trachea.