Local health experts say they’re seeing a number of cases of young men suffering from a collapsed lung – something that can come as a shock to the men who are otherwise healthy.
Adam Brilz, 19, never thought his tall, lean build would land him in hospital but Brilz is among a group of men with a health condition called pneumothorax, where a collection of air in the chest can cause the lung to collapse.
“I noticed when I breathed all the way in, it was really hurting when I got to the top of my breath,” Brilz said.
Brilz was at work when he felt a sharp pain in his side.
“I had a really sharp pain in my right side and I said, ‘this doesn’t seem normal,”” he said.
“It was horridly sharp. It felt like a stabbing pain.”
Brilz went to the medicentre and was told to get an X-Ray, which then determined that his right lung had collapsed by 60 per cent.
“I was little panicked,” Brilz said.
“I’m a healthy kid. I didn’t really have any previous issues. It just happened.”
Growth spurts likely the cause
Experts at the Chest Medicine Clinic say they see three to five patients a week with pneumothorax. Of that number, about half are tall, thin, young men.
Nurse practitioner James Veenstra says the condition may be common in that demographic as a result of a growth spurt.
“The main theory is the lung is weakened in individuals who grow and grow in a significant way in terms of a growth spurt and that can cause weakening of the lung, which leads to what is called to a bleb or a cyst,” Veenstra explains.
“If you think of a cyst like bubble wrap, if one of those bubbles ruptures, air can escape from the lung and cause the lung to collapse.”
While pneumothorax is common in teens and those in their 20s, Veenstra says the condition is also common in those who smoke and can be caused by a chest injury or underlying lung disease.
“The most common is people who have spontaneous pneumothorax in a younger age group,” he said.
Treatment depends on how large the pneumothorax is and medical history of the patient.
Veenstra says Brilz’ case was severe.
Brilz required surgery to re-inflate the lung and a second surgery tor remove the ruptured air blisters called blebs to try to prevent future cases.
He spent nine days in hospital and was released with a fully-functioning lung and a slim chance that he’d suffer from a collapsed lung again.
“Now they said it’s like a less in one per cent chance that it’s going to happen again,” he said.
Now Brilz is telling friends who fall into that tall, thin category, to see a doctor if they feel chest pain or shortness of breath.
“I told all my tall, lanky friends, if you feel a sharp pain in your left or right side, go get that checked out immediately,” he said.
“I said make sure you go check that out because it’s pretty dangerous.”
With files from Carmen Leibel