There are many disease processes that may cause shortness of breath. Often these also result in changes spotted on the chest x-ray. The pulmonologist (lung doctor) has many tests to aid in diagnosis of the cause, but in some cases, a biopsy of the lung is necessary. The cause of the lung dysfunction may be infectious, inflammatory, secondary to cancer or may be from an unknown cause.
- Lung cancer is a collection of abnormalÂ cells which are found in the lung. Most tumors are associated withÂ smoking. As the tumors progress, they spread to the lymph nodes causingÂ metastatic disease.
- Pneumothorax is the development of air in the chest between the lung andÂ the chest wall. This leak of air from the lung can be spontaneous, caused byÂ trauma, or a complication of emphysema.
- Pleural effusions are the collection of fluid between the lung and the chestÂ wall. These may be caused by infection, trauma, cancer, or congestive heartÂ failure. Eventually, enough fluid builds to cause shortness of breath.
Patent ductus arteriosus is an abnormal opening between two major bloodÂ vessels-the aorta and the pulmonary artery. PDA is common in prematureÂ babies, but rare in full term infants. An opening or duct between the aortaÂ and pulmonary artery is normal and necessary while the baby is in the womb;Â however, within 2-3 days of birth, this duct is supposed to close. If it doesÂ not close, the abnormal opening causes too much blood to Â circulate to theÂ lungs and heart. Blood pressure in the lungs may increase and the heart mayÂ weaken. Fortunately, this congenital defect can be treated with both medicationsÂ and surgery. Once repaired, the PDA rarely causes long-term problems.
Chest Wall Deformities
Pectus excavatum and carinatum are common congenital chest wall deformities.Â The sternal depression can limit the ability of the chest to expand duringÂ respiration and cause the heart to be repositioned in the chest. Often youngÂ children are asymptomatic, but by adolescence patients may exhibit recurrentÂ respiratory tract infections, decreased cardiac output, and arrhythmias.Â Adolescents are often insecure about their deformity and this tends to lead toÂ social withdrawal and the inability to participate in sports.