How Does Pneumothorax Affect Breathing? Must-Read Guide!


Breathing is a vital process that keeps us alive, but what happens when something goes wrong? Pneumothorax, a condition where air leaks into the space between the lung and the chest wall, can seriously impact our ability to breathe.

It's a frightening experience that can cause chest pain and shortness of breath. But how does pneumothorax affect breathing?

In this article, we'll explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment of pneumothorax, as well as delve into the different types of pneumothorax and the difference between lung collapse and pneumothorax.

By understanding how pneumothorax affects the mechanics of breathing, we can better appreciate the importance of prompt medical attention and proper treatment. So, let’s go ahead and find an answer to the question “How does pneumothorax affect breathing?”, shall we?

How does pneumothorax affect breathing?

Pneumothorax And Breathing

So, how does pneumothorax affect breathing? Or to be more precise, how does a pneumothorax affect the mechanics of breathing? What do you think?

Pneumothorax happens when air leaks into the pleural space. It is the space that exists between one’s lung and chest wall. When air enters this space, it can cause the lung to collapse partially or completely, depending on the severity of the pneumothorax. 

Normally, when we inhale, our diaphragm contracts and moves downward, creating negative pressure in the chest cavity. This negative pressure allows the lungs to expand and fill with air. However, when there's a pneumothorax, the presence of air in the pleural space prevents the lung from fully expanding during inhalation.

Why does pneumothorax cause respiratory distress?

Now, that we already know the answer to the question, “How does pneumothorax affect breathing?” let's go ahead and try to understand, “Why does pneumothorax cause respiratory distress?” The mechanics of breathing are further compromised by the pressure the leaked air puts on the affected lung.

As more air accumulates in the pleural space, it can compress the lung, making it harder for the lung to inflate properly. This can lead to respiratory distress, as the body struggles to get enough oxygen and eliminate carbon dioxide effectively.

How does pneumothorax affect oxygenation?

When a pneumothorax occurs, the lung volume reduction leads to decreased blood oxygenation. The presence of air in the pleural space prevents the lung from fully expanding during inhalation, which means less air reaches the alveoli, the tiny air sacs where gas exchange takes place. Consequently, less oxygen is absorbed into the bloodstream.

How does pneumothorax affect lung volume?

Pneumothorax directly affects lung volume by preventing the lung from fully expanding during inhalation. The leaked air in the pleural space puts pressure on the lung, causing it to collapse partially or completely.

This reduction in lung volume not only impacts oxygenation but also makes it harder for the body to eliminate carbon dioxide effectively.

Causes, symptoms, treatment

Pneumothorax can occur due to various reasons, such as a chest injury, a ruptured air blister on the lung (called a bleb), or as a complication of certain medical procedures. Symptoms of pneumothorax can vary depending on the size of the air leak and the individual's overall health. 

Common signs include sudden chest pain, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, and a rapid heartbeat. Treatment for pneumothorax depends on the severity and underlying cause.

Small pneumothoraces may resolve on their own with rest and observation, while larger or symptomatic pneumothoraces often require the insertion of a chest tube or surgery.

Types of pneumothorax

There are different types of pneumothorax, each with its own characteristics and treatment approaches.

  • Spontaneous pneumothorax occurs without any apparent cause and is more common in tall, thin individuals and smokers.
  • Traumatic pneumothorax results from a chest injury, such as a broken rib or a penetrating wound.
  • Tension pneumothorax is a life-threatening condition that occurs when air continually leaks into the pleural space. It can cause significant pressure on the lungs, potentially compressing the heart and other organs.

Lung collapse vs pneumothorax

While pneumothorax and lung collapse are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. Pneumothorax specifically refers to the presence of air in the pleural space, while lung collapse is a consequence of pneumothorax or other conditions that prevent the lung from inflating properly.

Also Read: What Is The Seven Second AM Ritual To Lose Weight? Japanese Long-Breathing Exercise 


In conclusion, the answer to the question, “How does pneumothorax affect breathing?” is yes. Pneumothorax can significantly impact breathing by reducing lung volume, decreasing oxygenation, and causing respiratory distress. Understanding how pneumothorax affects the mechanics of breathing is crucial for recognizing the symptoms and seeking prompt medical attention.

By exploring the causes, types, and treatment options for pneumothorax, we can better appreciate the importance of maintaining healthy lungs and addressing any issues that may arise. Remember, if you experience sudden chest pain or difficulty breathing, don't hesitate to seek medical help. Your lungs are vital to your overall health and well-being.

Now that you know more about how pneumothorax affects breathing, we'd love to hear from you. Have you or someone you know experienced pneumothorax? How did it impact your life, and what advice would you give to others who may be facing a similar situation? SNote down your experiences in the comments below.

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Dr. David G Kiely is a distinguished Medical Reviewer and former General Medicine Consultant with a wealth of experience in the field. Dr. Kiely's notable career as a General Medicine Consultant highlights his significant contributions to the medical field.

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