What are the Symptoms of Pneumothorax?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2019
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Pneumothorax, which is a collapsed lung, may cause a range of symptoms. Among the main symptoms of a pneumothorax are pain, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath. In many cases, a person with a pneumothorax will also notice that his heart beats more rapidly than usual. In some cases, however, a person with a mild form of this condition may not have many symptoms. For example, he may have minor chest discomfort that he mistakes for something else.

Pain is among the most common symptoms of a pneumothorax. Chest pain often develops when a person has this condition, and an individual may describe the pain as sharp. Often, the chest pain typical with a case of a pneumothorax is accompanied by a tight feeling in the chest. Some cases of a pneumothorax may be somewhat mild and involve only a slightly collapsed lung. Even in milder cases, however, a person is likely to experience at least some chest pain and tightness.

Breathing difficulties and heart rate changes may also develop as symptoms of a pneumothorax. Shortness of breath, for example, often accompanies this condition. In some cases, a patient with a collapsed lung may also breathe more rapidly than normal. Additionally, many patients with this condition develop a more rapid heart rate.


Some of the other symptoms that may develop when a person has a pneumothorax are coughing and fatigue. The levels of oxygen in a person’s blood may also decrease as a result of a collapsed lung. This may cause a person’s skin to take on a bluish tint, which is another sign of a pneumothorax.

While a person may suspect he has a pneumothorax because of his symptoms, it is imperative that he sees his doctor for diagnosis. To diagnose a patient with a pneumothorax, a doctor may take a medical history, evaluate the patient’s symptoms, and listen to the patient’s lungs with a stethoscope. By listening with a stethoscope, a doctor may be able to detect changes in breathing in a lung that has collapsed. X-rays, Computer Axial Tomography (CAT) scans, and blood tests that measure oxygen levels may also prove helpful in making a diagnosis.

An individual is usually advised to seek medical attention if he develops symptoms of a pneumothorax. This is because complications of the condition, including cardiac arrest, may occur if it is left untreated. If pain or trouble breathing is severe, however, a person may do well to go to an emergency room for immediate evaluation and treatment.


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