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What are the Causes of Lung Nodules?

Lung nodules are small growths in the lungs, often discovered incidentally during imaging tests. Causes range from benign conditions like inflammation or scar tissue to more serious issues such as infections or cancer. Each nodule's origin tells a unique story about our health. Wondering what your lung nodule might signify? Continue with us to uncover the implications for your well-being.
Angela Crout-Mitchell
Angela Crout-Mitchell

There are several reasons the lungs may develop nodules, small bumps on the surface of the pulmonary tissue, including cancer, tuberculosis, or a fungal infection. These lesions are typically found by imaging tests such as x-rays, MRI, and CAT scan exams. In most cases, lung nodules are non-cancerous and can be handled easily by treating the root cause of the nodule. Regardless of the cause, pulmonary nodules may appear singularly or in clusters or groups, and the patient may experience shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and other common lung symptoms before diagnosis. People experiencing any type of lung or respiratory problems are advised to seek the advice of their physician as quickly as possible.

Cancer is the cause of lung nodules most feared by many people. The appearance of these lesions on the lung tissue may be an indication of lung cancer, though in many cases, the nodules are benign. Once the patient's medical team has discovered the nodules, the doctor may order a biopsy of the affected tissue to further examine the cause. During a biopsy, the patient is sedated and a needle is inserted into the nodule to remove a small sample of the tissue for lab examination. These test results are used to diagnosis the lung nodule's cause and begin appropriate treatment.

A human respiratory system.
A human respiratory system.

Another common cause of lung nodules is tuberculosis, a pulmonary disease characterized by shortness of breath and coughing. Tuberculosis (TB) is an air-borne bacterial infection that most commonly affects people with a weak or compromised immune system. In addition to lung imaging exams, a person can be tested easily for TB with a skin prick test. Small particles of the bacteria are placed just under the first layers of the skin, normally on the inside of the forearm, and left for 24 hours. If the skin reacts, tuberculosis bacteria are present, and the patient should be treated accordingly.

Chest pains and unexplained headaches may be symptoms of lung cancer.
Chest pains and unexplained headaches may be symptoms of lung cancer.

Lung nodules may also be caused by a host of fungal infections, including histoplasmosis. The spores of this fungus are inhaled and thrive in the nutrient and oxygen rich environment of the lung tissue. This form of fungus is often found in bird droppings, making urban dwellers more likely to contract this type of infection. With the use of oral medications, doctors are able to kill the infection and restore lung health. Most physicians recommend avoiding large flocks of birds, especially in a city setting where the concentration of feces is likely to be high.

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    • A human respiratory system.
      By: pixelcaos
      A human respiratory system.
    • Chest pains and unexplained headaches may be symptoms of lung cancer.
      By: Aleksandar Todorovic
      Chest pains and unexplained headaches may be symptoms of lung cancer.
    • Those with lung nodules may experience shortness of breath.
      By: DURIS Guillaume
      Those with lung nodules may experience shortness of breath.
    • Cough medicine containing hydrocodone may be prescribed to alleviate the chronic cough associated with lung cancer.
      By: ognianmed
      Cough medicine containing hydrocodone may be prescribed to alleviate the chronic cough associated with lung cancer.
    • Tuberculosis may cause lung nodules.
      By: stockdevil
      Tuberculosis may cause lung nodules.
    • Lung nodules will likely show up on a CAT scan.
      By: Hakan Kızıltan
      Lung nodules will likely show up on a CAT scan.
    • Cigarette smoke can lead to the development of lung nodules.
      By: Nomad_Soul
      Cigarette smoke can lead to the development of lung nodules.
    • A lung nodule may be sampled and the tissue examined under a microscope if cancer is suspected.
      By: luchschen_shutter
      A lung nodule may be sampled and the tissue examined under a microscope if cancer is suspected.