LAM What Is LAM?

Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) is a rare lung disease that affects mostly women of childbearing age (the years between puberty and menopause when it is possible to become pregnant).

In people who have LAM, abnormal muscle-like cells begin to grow out of control in the lungs and other parts of the body. Over time, these LAM cells can destroy healthy lung tissue. As a result, fluid-filled pockets called cysts may develop, preventing air from moving freely in and out of the lungs. This can lower the amount of oxygen that reaches the rest of the body.

There are two types of LAM.

  • TSC-LAM occurs in some people who inherit a rare genetic disease called tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC).
  • Sporadic LAM is caused by a genetic mutation (change) that occurs spontaneously during a person’s life but cannot be passed on to children.

Symptoms of LAM may include shortness of breath, tiredness, chest pain, cough, and respiratory failure. LAM can be difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms are often similar to asthma, bronchitis, and other lung diseases.

LAM can develop slowly. You may not discover you have LAM until you feel stabbing chest pain and have a hard time breathing. These symptoms mean that air has leaked into the space between the chest wall and the lung, causing a collapsed lung (pneumothorax). This common complication of LAM requires immediate treatment.

If you are diagnosed with LAM, your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to help prevent more damage to your lungs and to treat symptoms or health problems. Over time, LAM cells can cause permanent damage to the lungs or can lead to respiratory failure, which happens when your organs don’t receive enough oxygen to work well.

Normal lungs and lungs with LAM: Figure A shows normal lungs and the airways in the body. The inset image shows a detailed view of a healthy lung. Figure B shows lungs with LAM and a collapsed lung (pneumothorax). The space between the lung and the chest wall in Figure B is called the pleural space. The inset image shows a detailed view of a lung with LAM.
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