What Are the Symptoms of LAM?

LAM is most commonly detected when a woman develops a pneumothorax or collapsed lung. Pneumothorax causes sharp chest pains and shortness of breath, which may be mild to severe. Patients without a collapsed lung will also have shortness of breath and may suffer from other symptoms including frequent coughing, enlarged lymph nodes, wheezing and fatigue.

How LAM Is Diagnosed

Symptoms of LAM can be similar to many other respiratory diseases, so it may take a while to diagnose. If your doctor suspects LAM, there are several tests they may suggest.   

  • CT scan: Since an X-ray will normally not be detailed enough, your doctor may order a CT scan to get a better picture of the lungs and identify potential cysts.
  • Lung function tests: These tests measure your lungs’ ability to breathe and move oxygen by breathing into a machine called a spirometer. They can also be used to determine how much damage has been done to your lungs.
  • Blood tests: May be ordered to test levels of vascular endothelial growth factor-D (VEGF-D). About 70% of the patients with LAM have elevated levels of this protein, so this should be checked before performing a more invasive procedure.

If these tests are not enough to make a definitive diagnosis, your doctor may need to perform a lung biopsy. A transbronchial lung biopsy is performed as an outpatient procedure. It involves inserting a long, flexible tube called a bronchoscope through your nose or mouth and into the lungs to remove a small amount of lung tissue.

A video-assisted thorascopic lung biopsy is a more invasive surgery that involves inserting a lighted tube through a small incision in the chest cavity to look at the lungs and collect a larger sample of lung tissue. This should only be performed as a last effort, since it is the most invasive option.

Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.

Page last updated: March 5, 2020

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