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Chest Tightness Asthma or Something else

Chest Tightness Asthma or Something else

Asthma Chest TightnessChest tightness often happens in asthma patients, either alone or with the other classic symptoms of asthma like:-

    • Wheezing
    • Shortness of breath
    • Chronic cough

As your airways become very inflamed, filled with mucus(a slimy substance, typically not miscible with water, secreted by mucous membranes and glands for lubrication, protection, etc), and the smooth muscles in your airways constrict, chest tightness may be experienced as the inability or perception of not being able to move air in and out of your lungs. This feeling may also increase your anxiety and further worsen the sense of not being able to move air through your lungs. The inflammation, mucus, and muscle tightness may happen after exposure to a trigger, a specific irritant in occupational asthma, or even as a result of exercise in the case of exercise induced asthma.

Like the other classic symptoms of asthma, chest tightness should not be ignored, especially if you do not have a previous history of asthma. Ignoring a symptom like chest tightness may lead to a asthma attack if you do not follow your asthma care plan appropriately.

Make sure you discuss this symptom with your doctor because a number of other diseases such as heart diseaseCOPD, and pulmonary embolism (blockage of the pulmonary artery by foreign matter or by a blood clot) can also be associated with chest tightness. If you are unsure of what your symptoms may mean or just want more information, consider visiting/consulting your doctor to see what may be causing your symptoms.

Call or see a Doctor

Contact a medical healthcare provider if you experience chest tightness and have not previously been diagnosed with asthma. Keeping track of your symptoms may help your doctor decide the next cause of action. Practicing in keeping a symptom diary, you can record the answers to the following questions:-

  • How frequent do you get the chest tightness?
  • What were you are doing when the chest tightness happens?
  • What makes the chest tightness go away?
  • Did you noticed other classic asthma symptoms happen with the chest tightness?
  • What makes the chest tightness get better(if you have done anything)?
  • What is the feeling of the chest tightness.?

Subsequently, your doctor may order a few series of tests. Some will be to help with a diagnosis of asthma and some will be to make sure you do not have one of the previously mentioned serious causes of shortness of breath. This tests may include:

  • Pulse oximetry(is a non-invasive method allowing the monitoring of the oxygenation of a patient’s hemoglobin)
  • Peak flow
  • Complete blood count (CBC)- blood test to check for anemia (a condition marked by a deficiency of red blood cells or of hemoglobin in the blood, resulting in pallor and weariness)
  • Chest x-ray
  • Spirometry
  • Complete pulmonary function testing
  • Cat scan
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Echocardiogram(A test of the action of the heart using ultrasound waves to produce a visual display, used for the diagnosis or monitoring of heart disease)
  • Stress test- to look for possible coronary artery disease or blockages in the heart

From the diagnosis of asthma, chest tightness may indicate poor control or worsening asthma symptoms that could escalate into an asthma attack if you do not follow your asthma action plan. Make sure you understand what to do when you experience symptoms and DO NOT hesitate to ask your doctor specific questions if you do not understand.

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  1. Jefferson fashaya
    Jefferson fashaya03-20-2014

    I have chest tightness,I wheezle i some time have difficulty in breath,I cough n I. Have catarrh I get tired easily while playing soccer

    • Webmaster

      Hello Jefferson Fashaya,

      Since you cough, wheeze and have a tight chest or shortness of breath when you exercise?
      Confirmed by you yes, you may have exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). This happens when the tubes that bring air into and out of your lungs narrow with exercise, causing symptoms of asthma.
      An estimated 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, according to the World Health Organization, and strenuous exercise makes it worse for many people. Some people with EIB do not otherwise have asthma, and people with allergies may also have trouble breathing during exercise.
      If you have EIB, you may have problems breathing within five to 20 minutes after exercise. Your symptoms may include:
      • Wheezing
      • Tight chest
      • Cough
      • Shortness of breath
      • Chest pain (rarely)
      People with EIB are very sensitive to both low temperatures and dry air. Air is usually warmed and humidified by the nose, but during demanding activity people breathe more through their mouths. This allows cold, dry air to reach your lower airways and your lungs without passing through your nose, triggering asthma symptoms. Air pollutants, high pollen levels and viral respiratory infections may also be triggers. Other causes of symptoms with exercise may be that you are out of shape, have poorly controlled nasal allergies or vocal chord issues.
      Wheezing or tightness in your chest can be serious, so let your physician know about your symptoms. Your physician can help you by:
      • Getting your health history
      • Doing a breathing test (called spirometry) at rest
      • Doing a follow-up exercise challenge test
      If your breathing test shows that you might have asthma, your physician may give you a drug to inhale such as albuterol. If your breathing test numbers improve after inhaling the medicine, then the diagnosis of asthma is more likely.
      If your breathing test is normal, you may be asked to take an additional test, called a bronchoprovocation challenge test. Your physician will have you exercise in the sport you play, run outside, or have you cycle or run on a treadmill. Before and after the exercise, your physician will test the amount of air you force out of your lungs with a spirometry test. If you exhale air less forcefully after exercise, then the problem may be EIB.
      The first step is to develop a treatment plan with your physician. EIB associated with more generalized asthma is prevented with controller medications taken regularly (such as mast cell stabilizers, inhaled steroids and leukotriene modifiers) or by using medicines before you exercise (short-acting beta-agonists such as albuterol). When EIB symptoms occur, they can be treated with short-acting beta-agonists.
      In addition to medications, warm-ups and cool-downs may prevent or lessen EIB symptoms. You may want to limit exercise when you have a viral infection, temperatures are low, or pollen and air pollution levels are high.
      Recommended Activities
      The goal of an asthma treatment plan is to keep your symptoms under control so that you can enjoy exercising or sports activities. However, there are some activities that are better for people with EIB. For instance, swimmers are exposed to warm, moist air as they exercise, which does not tend to trigger asthma symptoms. Swimming also helps strengthen upper body muscles.
      Walking, leisure biking and hiking are also good sporting activities for people with EIB. Team sports that require short bursts of energy, such as baseball, football and short-term track and field are less likely to cause symptoms than sports that have a lot of ongoing activity such as soccer, basketball, field hockey or long-distance running.
      Cold weather activities such as cross-country skiing and ice hockey are more likely to make symptoms worse, but with proper diagnosis and treatment, many people with EIB can participate and excel in almost any sport or activity.
      When to See an Allergist / Immunologist
      One of the first steps to controlling EIB is finding the right help. An allergist / immunologist, often referred to as an allergist, is an internist or pediatrician with at least two years of advanced training in allergic diseases. An allergist can help figure out the cause of your symptoms and develop a treatment plan that can keep you exercising. You should see an allergist if you have:
      • Exercise-induced symptoms that are unusual or do not respond well to treatment
      • Had exercise-induced anaphylaxis (an-a-fi-LAK-sis) or food-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis
      • A history of asthma and want to scuba dive
      Healthy Tips
      • If you cough, wheeze and have a tight chest or shortness of breath when you exercise, you could have EIB.
      • Walking, leisure biking, swimming and hiking are good sporting activities for people with EIB.
      • Cold weather activities such as cross-country skiing and ice hockey, as well as sports that require short bursts of high energy are more likely to make your symptoms worse.
      • An allergist can figure out the cause of your symptoms and develop a treatment plan that can keep you exercising.
      Feel Better. Live Better.
      An allergist / immunologist, often referred to as an allergist, is a pediatrician or internist with at least two additional years of specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of problems such as allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases and the evaluation and treatment of patients with recurrent infections, such as immunodeficiency diseases.
      The right care can make the difference between suffering with an allergic disease and feeling better. By visiting an allergist, you can expect an accurate diagnosis, a treatment plan that works and educational information to help you manage your disease.

      By American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

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