Chest Tightness - An Asthma Symptom

While many illnesses have faded into memory or at least lessened over time, the number of asthma cases in the world has actually been increasing over the last four decades. Today more than three hundred million people suffer from it in varying degrees of severity. Step down therapy and proper medications can control asthma in all but the most serious of cases, and knowing the symptoms is important so that you will recognize when you need to pay a visit to your physician. Chest tightness is one of the most obvious signs that you're suffering from asthma and although it could indicate other problems, there's a good chance that asthma is to blame.

There are a couple of reasons that you may experience chest tightness when you're suffering from asthma. Asthma itself is a condition wherein the air passages in your lungs swell up, narrowing the pathway that air enters your lungs through. This lack of proper air, combined with the inflammation within your lungs, can cause your chest to feel 'tight'. It may feel hard to inhale or exhale and you could feel as though something is squeezing around your chest and stopping you from doing so. But there's one more way that asthma can cause chest tightness to occur.

The other cause of chest tightness in asthma sufferers is actually a decrease in pressure within the lungs. Your lungs are filled with air like balloons. When they're deflated you may end up experiencing chest tightness due to the fact that the muscles around your lungs will press against them. With no air in the lungs, these muscles won't be supported properly and can contribute greatly to the feeling of chest tightness that is commonly experienced by asthma sufferers. Like most other asthma symptoms, chest tightness is usually a chronic issue that is made worse by certain activities or environmental factors.

Things like physical activity, exposure to cold air, exposure to smoke or allergens, and stress can all cause the chest tightness experienced during asthma to worsen. If you're feeling this symptom then you should visit with a doctor soon. They may be able to help give you medicine that could reduce the inflammation within your lungs and help you feel better. There's no real cure for asthma, but all of its symptoms are manageable with the right techniques, and that includes the crushing, constricting chest tightness that afflicts so many asthma sufferers today.

8 Other Causes Behind a Tightening Chest Sensation

The sudden feeling as though one's chest is tightening can be a worrying experience. The first thought that might occur is that one is experiencing a heart attack. However, cardiac arrest is not the only possible cause of a tightening chest sensation. It may very well be one of the causes listed below. As with any health concern, be sure to consult with one's doctor for a professional diagnosis.

1. Coronary Artery Disease

Commonly called CAD or heart disease, coronary artery disease is caused by saturation of plaque in the arteries. Arteries first begin as smooth and elastic vessels for blood flow. Over time, plague collects in the inner walls, which transform the smooth vessels into rough, rigid vessels, and the pathway in which the blood is flowing becomes narrower. Because this restricts the available blood flow to the heart, it also reduces the amount of oxygen being delivered to the heart. This, essentially, starves the heart of necessary oxygen. Plague begins to build at a young age but progressively worsens as one grows older.

2. Myocardial Infarction

This is the standard heart attack. It's caused by a restriction of blood flow to the heart. When heart vessels are no longer receiving enough blood, or oxygen, more accurately, it kills heart muscle cells. For a male, intense pain occurs in the center or left of the chest. They may also experience other symptoms such as nausea, weakness, sweating, or shortness of breath. For women, it's a little different. They'll experience a feeling of indigestion. This discomfort may move up to her back as well. Nausea and shortness of breath are also symptoms, and she must be certain that is not taken in for a gallbladder attack, as a heart attack is commonly mistaken for that.

3. Myocarditis

This occurs when the heart muscle is suffering from inflammation. There are usually no detectable symptoms. Those who usually develop myocarditis is healthy, and the leading belief behind what causes it is a viral infection. When a viral infection occurs, one's body release cells to fight it off. Since these cells secrete chemicals designed to kill the infection, they can sometimes reach the heart, which causes inflammation. Other causes of heart inflammation are: Epstein-Barr virus, Cytomegalovirus, Hepatitis C, herpes, HIV, parvovirus, strep, chlamydia, and a few others. Besides viral, infections from fungus and parasites can also cause heart inflammation.

4. Pericarditis

Similar to myocarditis, this also involves inflammation. However, it differs in that it centers around inflammation of the pericardium. This thin sac surrounds the heart and is made up of the visceral pericardium, the parietal pericardium, and a middle layer that's a fluid which keeps the visceral and parietal separated. The pain from this inflammation is intense and located around the center of the chest. Pain in the neck, shoulders, arms, and back may also be experienced. Sometimes, it intensifies by laying down or coughing, but it can also be relieved by sitting forward.

5. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Another possible issue occurring from the restriction of blood flow is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This occurs when the heart muscle thickens, particularly at the septum. This makes the walls of the heart rigid and makes the aortic and mitral heart valves function poorly. Although many people who suffer from HCM don't experience any symptoms, others do. Chest pain is most common, especially after exercise or physical activity. It can also occur during rest or after eating. Shortness of breath may occur along with fatigue, possible fainting, palpitations of the heart, and, although rarely, sudden death.

6. Mitral Valve Prolapse

Often found in heart murmurs, a mitral valve prolapse occurs due to a leaky heart valve. While this case is not always serious, it should be closely monitored. The mitral valve essentially allows blood flow into the left atrium of the heart to the ventricle on the left. When prolapse occurs, the valve sometimes slips backwards into the left atrium. This occurs when the mitral valve is damaged or is an abnormal size. Chest pain is the most common symptom of a prolapsed mitral valve, and although the pain may be severe, it does not increase the chances of developing a heart attack or other health problems.

7. Pleurisy

It may be surprising to know that a lot of chest pain causes can come from issues with the lungs. Pleurisy occurs when the thin layers of tissue that cover the chest wall and lungs are swollen. When inflammation occurs, these layers rub against each other which causes chest pain. The symptoms are primarily chest and difficulty with breathing. The pain is sharp and intense and can sometimes worsen when one is breathing. The pain is also usually located on one side of the chest and may expand to the shoulder and stomach area. Sometimes, the pain may ease when one holds one's breath or apply pressure to the area that is in pain.

8. Pulmonary Embolism

This condition occurs due to a blood clot. Normally beginning with the large veins in the legs, the clot travels through the stomach and up to the heart. The clot enters the lungs and sometimes blocks the blood vessels. Pulmonary embolism is a serious condition and could lead to damaging one of the lungs. If the clot is large enough, or there is a great number of them, they may even cause death. Besides chest pain, one might also experience shortness of breath, light-headedness, an irregular heartbeat, or even coughing up blood. Pulmonary embolism usually occurs after deep vein thrombosis or if one doesn't move for several days after having surgery. It can even arise as a complication of cancer.

Consult With One's Doctor

If one is experiencing chest pain, speak with one's doctor as soon as possible. As described above, there are numerous possible causes (other than asthma) behind it. Some are worrisome while others are not, so getting checked out quickly could potentially save one's life.