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Lung diseases

About pulmonary bullae

09/08/2006

Question:

i am a 25 yr. old female who just weeks ago was diganosed with a chronic pulmonary bullae of the right lung. i am a smoker yet the doctor told me it had been there for a while. i have no insurance so it is very hard for me to see a specialist and i was wondering if you could provide me some information on what will happen next. i have slowed on the cigerettes. is this the first stages of emphysmia or cancer? i have a 5 yr. old and this news and not knowing what is likely to happen next has both stressed me out and made me have slight trouble with deppression. i would be very grateful if you could give me a little insight on what i have and how it will affect me later. thank you for your time.

Answer:

Given your age, the bulla is most likely congenital meaning that you were born with it.  A bulla is a cyst-like structure within the lung.  Usually it is benign and causes no problems.  As long as it does not increase in size, a bulla doesn't affect breathing or cause shortness of breath.

Potential issues that may arise with a bulla include enlarging in size and compressing normal lung leading to shortness of breath.  Occasionally, bullae may become infected and these infections require antibiotics for several weeks.  Rarely, bulla may rupture into the space around the lung causing a collapsed lung.  The lung is re-expanded with a tube in the chest.  Most of these issues do not occur and most bulla do not cause any problems.

The single most important thing you can do for your lung health and the health of your child is to stop smoking.  Smoking cessation will reduce the risk of lung infections and greatly reduce the risk of developing chronic bronchitis and emphysema in the future.  Children of smokers have more respiratory infections and greater risk of asthma and other lung conditions than children of nonsmokers.

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Response by:

Ralph   Panos, MD Ralph Panos, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati