Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) is a lung condition that is characterized by the overgrowth of cells resembling smooth muscles within the lungs. These cells can gradually crowd out the healthy-functioning cells, diminishing the capacity and function of the lungs. Over time, the lungs become less capable of efficiently transferring oxygen into and carbon dioxide out of the blood, leading to breathing difficulties.
Causes of LAMResearchers are still unsure as to what causes LAM. However, there may be a connection between the condition and the production of estrogen, as it seems to occur almost exclusively in women of childbearing age, although younger girls and older women can also be diagnosed with LAM. A rare genetic disorder called tuberous sclerosis is also a risk factor for this condition.
Symptoms of LAM
The type and severity of LAM symptoms vary from person to person, but common symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or achiness
- Swelling of the lymph nodes
- Pleural effusion (a buildup of fluid in the sac that surrounds the lungs)
- Swelling of the abdomen, legs or feet
Because LAM shares symptoms with asthma and other, more common respiratory conditions, it may initially be misdiagnosed. That’s why it’s essential to turn to Tampa General Hospital’s lung and pulmonary experts for an accurate diagnosis. Our world-class pulmonologists diagnose and treat many diseases of the lungs and respiratory system, including rare conditions like LAM. Our pulmonologists can conduct several different tests to accurately diagnose your condition, such as:
- Lung function testing
- Pulse oximetry
- VEGF-D blood testing
- Lung biopsies
- Computed tomography (CT) scans
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans
Treatment for LAM
After proper diagnosis, treatment will depend on the individual patient and the progression of the damage. The most common treatments include:
- Oxygen therapy to increase the amount of oxygen in the blood
- Medication to relax the airways
- Procedures to remove excess fluid in the sac surrounding the lungs (pleural effusion) and abdomen (pleural edema)
If LAM continues to progress and makes it impossible for the lungs to function properly, a patient may be referred to our lung transplant program, which accepts adult candidates who are experiencing severe LAM. We are one of the top lung transplant programs in Florida, performing a high volume of transplants with some of the shortest average times to transplant in the nation.