What Can Cause a Hole in the Lung?

Damage from emphysema, a chronic obstructive lung disease, can cause holes in lung tissue, explains UW Health. Cysts from lymphangioleiomyomatosis, or LAM, a rare disease that primarily occurs in women of child-bearing age, can also cause holes in the lungs, reports the Scientific Society for Rare Diseases & Orphan Drugs.

Emphysema results in damage to air sacs, called alveoli, in the lungs, notes UW Health. As a result, permanent holes form in the lungs, causing air to become trapped and the lung tissue to distend from decreased elasticity. This causes the individual to experience difficulty exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide through exhalation due to the distended lung tissue placing pressure on the neighboring healthy lung tissue. Common symptoms of emphysema include shortness of breath, low tolerance for exercise and coughing. Over time, individuals suffering from emphysema may need to receive supplemental oxygen.

LAM is a progressive disease of the lungs that develops almost only in women, notes The LAM Foundation. In patients with LAM, abnormal smooth muscle cells invade healthy lung tissue, resulting in holes that make it difficult for the lungs to supply the rest of the body with vital oxygen. In the early stages of the disease, patients can usually continue their regular activities, but oxygen supplementation and lung transplantation may become necessary as the damage to the lungs progresses.