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    Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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    Do I Have a Lung Injury?

    In and out. In and out. No matter what you're doing, your lungs are always moving air to every organ and cell. Breathing is something you do without a thought, yet it’s vital to every part of our body.

    Ribs provide protection, but lung injuries can occur. Trauma causes fluid (and often air) to leak into the lungs. When this happens, your lungs can't give your body the oxygen it needs to survive.

    What Causes Lung Injuries?

    The causes of lung injuries fall into two categories: direct or indirect.

    Direct lung injuries can be brought on by:

    • Aspiration (breathing stomach contents into the lung)
    • Bruising from trauma, like a car accident
    • High altitude
    • Near-drowning
    • Severe pneumonia
    • Shock
    • Smoke inhalation from a fire

    Indirect lung injuries can result from:

    Am I at Risk?

    Doctors can’t really tell who’ll develop lung injuries. But they’ve pinpointed some things that can increase your risk. They include:

    What Are the Symptoms?

    Depending on the cause of the lung injury, symptoms can be mild or intense. Look for these warning signs:

    • Bluish coloring around nails and lips, which means there’s a lack of oxygen in the blood
    • Chest pain, often when you inhale
    • Cough
    • Fever
    • Fast heart rate
    • Shortness of breath

    If you notice any symptoms, call your doctor. If they're severe, call 911.

    How Is It Diagnosed?

    Most of the time, doctors find lung injuries after patients have been admitted to the hospital for trauma or illness.

    There's no specific test to identify lung injuries. After checking your symptoms and vital signs, your doctor may order a chest X-ray. This will determine the amount of fluid in different parts of your lungs. Since lung injuries and heart problems often share symptoms, this test can also show if your heart is enlarged.

    You may also have a CT scan. That’ll give doctors a better look at your heart and lungs.

    Using blood from an artery (in your wrist, elbow, or groin), doctors can check your oxygen level. Other blood tests can show if you have an infection or anemia (low red blood cell count).

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