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What Causes Scar Tissue in the Lungs?

By Debra Durkee
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A number of conditions can cause scar tissue in the lungs, and while some are progressive, others result in the development of a limited amount of scarring. Some individuals diagnosed with lung cancer develop scars in the tissue after the tumors are removed and healed. Other, progressive diseases, such as pulmonary fibrosis, continue to build scarring around vital parts of the lung tissue.

When an individual undergoes radiation therapy for lung cancer, the tumors in the lungs are bombarded with radiation that is designed to eat away at the tumor. In doing so, however, it can also damage nearby blood vessels and air sacs. As these areas heal, scar tissue is often formed. When the radiation is stopped and the tumor is removed, the scar tissue will stop forming.

Other conditions result in the formation of scar tissue that gets progressively worse. Pulmonary fibrosis, also known as interstitial pneumonitis, occurs when the tissues of the lungs swell and begin to form scar tissue around the air sacs. This can be caused by the individual repeatedly being exposed to microscopic substances that cause tiny holes in the tissues of the lungs. The body responds by patching the holes, and with continued exposure and the buildup of scar tissue, the lungs can lose some of the elasticity that allows them to expand and contract with each breath.

Many individuals who develop pulmonary fibrosis get it through their jobs. Inhaling chemicals, asbestos, minerals, or even some types of mold can result in scar tissue in the lungs. This is also one of the most avoidable conditions that results in scarring, as much of the exposure can be limited by proper equipment and masks. A condition called chemical pneumonia can develop with prolonged exposure to toxins that cause inflammation and irritation in the lung tissue. One of the ways the body combats this intrusion is by forming scar tissue.

Damage to the lungs, from an accident or physical injury or from surgery performed because of another condition, can also result in scarring. Persistent inflammation or the presence of tumors can cause irritation in the lungs, which in turn results in the collection of fluid along their surfaces. When this fluid is drained, scars can form where the procedure was done. Outward trauma to the lungs, such as a puncture or smoke inhalation, can also be responsible for the buildup of scar tissue as a healing process. In some cases, bacteria that enter the body in another area can settle into the lungs and damage the tissues there, resulting in the body developing scar tissue to heal the wounds.

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Discussion Comments

By werterful — On Feb 02, 2014

Anything that inflames the alveoli of the lungs causes scar tissue to form on the lungs. Scar tissue on the lungs can be caused by toxins and pollutants, infections, radiation and drugs. Examples of lung scaring toxins include: metal dust, animal droppings, chlorine fumes, asbestos fibers, mold and more. Infections like pneumonia inflame the lungs and cause a great deal of scar tissue.

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