Thu, Mar 19, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Heavy-smoking 19-year-old male had pneumothorax scare

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

A 19-year-old male who recently suffered sudden sharp chest pain and difficulty breathing was diagnosed with pneumothorax, which his doctor said might have been caused by his heavy smoking habit.

National Taiwan University Hospital Hsinchu Branch’s emergency doctor Chen Shen-ching (陳憲青) said the teenager, surnamed Lin (林), sought help at the hospital’s emergency unit after experiencing difficulty breathing.

“A chest X-ray confirmed that Lin had developed pneumothorax on the left side of his chest,” Chen said, referring to a condition where there is an abnormal collection of air or gas in the pleural cavity.

“We were able to relieve his symptoms after inserting a chest tube,” the doctor said.

The 19-year-old told Chen that he started smoking in junior-high school and finishes at least five packs a day.

Tobacco is a risk factor for spontaneous pneumothorax, lung cancer and an array of chronic diseases, Chen said.

Spontaneous pneumothorax occurs when a hole develops in the lung that allows air to enter the pleural space, leading to a loss of intrapleural negative pressure that causes symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain and a dry cough, the doctor said.

The condition sometimes occurs during sleep and can be fatal if left untreated, with the highest at-risk group being tall, thin males aged between 10 and 30 who smoke, Chen said.

“Smoking increases the chances of the formation and rupture of air sacs on the surface of the lung. Smokers who have had a primary spontaneous pneumothorax face a 25 percent to 30 percent chance of experiencing a recurrence,” he said.

Chen added that the best way to avoid the condition is to quit smoking.

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