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Lung diseases

Ground Glass: Both Lungs

05/12/2011

Question:

My daughter is going to be 9 years old. She has daily pain in her chest, constant stomach ache, legs/feet and pins/needles in her hands. She had a CT scan in which ground glass was detected in both lungs. Her blood is normal except for an autoimmune marker. Her Pulmonolgist found that the bronchi are inflamed but, no indication of disease. Her GI found minor reflux. And, her Rheumatologist is perplexed. She does not have any indicators IBD nor RA. Yet, she has daily pain in which no one can figure out. What causes this condition of ground glass? Is is associated with her other pain? And, will it go away? Or, is this an indication of something more serious.

Answer:

Without seeing her X-rays, along with the other tests your doctors have likely done, it is difficult to know how serious the results on the x-ray images are. 

"Ground glass" is not really one lung condition - it is actually a description of what the lungs look like on the X-ray. Instead of being mostly black with some streaky white lines where airways and blood vessels are present, the normally black areas of the lung basically look hazy. (It's like you're looking at the CXR picture through a veil, or through frosted glass.) There are a number of conditions that can make the lung look that way, ranging from infections to atypical "hypersensitivity" reactions to something that's been inhaled (particles from birds or hot tubs are most common in kids - but there is a long list of possibilities), to early stages of autoimmune diseases. Blood studies can identify some of these problems.

If the lung disease is severe enough, sometimes an actual biopsy of the lung is done so that further tests can be done on the lung tissue itself to try to determine the source of the trouble. Most of these conditions are not linked to pain - the lung symptoms usually involve shortness of breath, especially with activity, and perhaps cough. Without knowing what the cause is, it is difficult to predict whether she will get better or worse with time.

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Response by:

Elizabeth D Allen, MD Elizabeth D Allen, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University