Can a person survive long-term with only one lung or with only a portion of one lung? What happens when a lung “collapses”?

A person can absolutely survive with only one lung! And a collapsed lung, or pneumothorax, has many symptoms associated with it.

There are many people living around the world with only one lung. The main function of your lungs is to take in oxygen for your body and it is possible for only one lung to do this job. However, a person with only one lung may need to have access to an oxygen tank or make certain changes to their lifestyle (physical activity, eating habits) in order to function with the use of only one lung.

A collapsed lung, or pneumothorax, happens when air enters the chest cavity outside of the lung and prevents the lung from inflating. This normally occurs after the chest cavity is punctured by something sharp like a knife. The air rushes out of the lung or in from the opening and stops the lung from inflating to its regular capacity.

Depending on the severity of the injury the symptoms of a collapsed lung can vary.
-chest pain or shoulder pain (worsening when inhaling or taking a deep breath)
-reduced breathing sounds on one side of the chest
-fainting and shortness of breath
-easy fatigue
-quickened heartbeat

A pneumothorax is treated by a doctor who inserts a needle or chest tube to release the air in the chest cavity. Depending on the damage to the lung or chest wall, surgery may be needed to repair the injury so the lung can function on its own again. In situations where the damage is too severe, the lung may need to be removed completely.

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