Tightness in Your Chest? Here's What It Could Mean

Whatever the severity of your case, when your stomach acid boils in your esophagus, the irritation can cause a feeling of tightness, burning and pain in your chest that you could call heartburn. You may also taste food or stomach acid in your mouth and experience additional symptoms such as bad breath, nausea and vomiting, difficulty swallowing, breathing problems and tooth erosion over time. because of all this acid, according to the NIDDK.

5. A collapsed lung

There is a fancy name for this – pneumothorax – and this happens when air infiltrates the space between your lungs and the chest wall, depending on the Mayo Clinic. This air then applies pressure to the outside of your lung, forcing it to collapse.

Among other causes, your lung may collapse due to something like a chest injury or lung disease such as pneumonia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, this is a long-term lung disease that occurs most often because of smoking), Mayo Clinic Explain.

Whatever the reason, the main symptoms of a collapsed lung are sudden chest pain and shortness of breath. The pain tends to be quite strong and located in the area where the lung collapsed, and in some cases people report it rather as chest tightness, says Dr. Casciari.

6. Pulmonary embolism

A pulmonary embolism occurs when something blocks one of the arteries in your lungs that carries blood, Mayo Clinic Explain. This something is usually a blood clot which, after forming in your legs (what is called deep vein thrombosis), ruptured and made it into your lungs.

Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism may change depending on the size of the clot and the amount of lung affected. Chest pain and tightness that won’t go away even when you relax is a common sign, according to Mayo Clinic. A pulmonary embolism can actually kill parts of your lungs, making breathing more difficult than usual, Jennifer Haythe, M.D., co-director of the Women’s Center for Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and cardiologist in NewYork-Presbyterian / Columbia, says SELF. This can cause a tight, sore chest.

Other symptoms usually include a mindless breathlessness that intensifies when you push yourself physically and a cough that can be bloody. You should also watch for problems such as fever, profuse sweating, dizziness and leg pain or swelling.

7. A heart attack or angina pectoris

OK, of course, having chest tightness could report that you have a heart attack or angina, which is chest pain caused by a decrease in blood flow to your heart (and a possible warning of a future heart attack), depending on the Mayo Clinic. But if you’re an otherwise healthy person, it’s more likely that your chest tightness is due to something less serious like acid reflux, says Dr. Haythe. But back to basics.

Symptoms of angina and one heart attack are quite similar. They usually include pain, compression, pressure or tightness in the chest, pain in the arms, neck, jaw, shoulder or back, nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath, sweating and dizziness. Chest tightness comes from the fact that your heart isn’t getting enough blood, says Dr. Haythe, so it sets off an alarm to alert you to an emergency.

Again, if you are healthy and young, your chest discomfort is unlikely to be due to a serious heart problem. This does not mean that you can simply delay a persistent chest tightness.

Bottom Line: You should talk to your doctor about chest tightness no matter how it looks, but there are a few red flags you need to ask for help right away.

For example, if you know you have asthma and your chest tightness improves when you use your prescribed medication, you may want to consider seeing your doctor in a few days, says Dr. Casciari. Having well controlled asthma means you shouldn’t need to use your short-acting rescue medication often. Even if your symptoms respond to medication, it could be a sign that your asthma action plan needs to be changed. But if your chest tightness and other asthma symptoms do not improve in response to your medication, you may need to go to the emergency room.


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