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Ask Dr. Abby Your Own Question
Dr. Abby
Dr. Abby, Board Certified MD
Category: Health
Satisfied Customers: 10330
Experience:  Family Physician, practicing medicine for over 10 years, United States
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What can tightness of the chest mean?

Resolved Question:

What can tightness of the chest mean?
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Health
Expert:  Dr. Abby replied 7 years ago.

Are you coughing?
Short of breath?
Does the pain or tightness radiate to the arm or jaw?
Do you have diabetes? High blood pressure?
High cholesterol?
Do you smoke?
Any family history of heart disease?

Dr Abby
Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Hello Dr.

I am not coughing

I have shortness of breath when climbing stairs

I am not nauseated

No pain in arm or jaw

I've never been diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure (usually on the low normal side) nor high cholesterol.

I quit smoking 3 months ago (never had a cleansing cough attack) I smoked for 28 years.

My father had some heart problem, a flutter maybe

Expert:  Dr. Abby replied 7 years ago.
Congratulations on quitting smoking!

How long has the tightness been going on?
Is it worse with exercise or movement?
Does anything make it better? Worse?
Any heartburn?
Customer: replied 7 years ago.

I have felt thistightness for about 2 weeks

The tightness doesnt get worse during exercise/movement it's just harder to breath

Nothing makes it better or worse, it's pretty much the same amount of tightness/pressure 24/7

I have no heartburn

Expert:  Dr. Abby replied 7 years ago.
Thank you for all of the information,

Chest tightness can be due to many things.

Since you have been a smoker for such a long period of time, one thing that needs to be looked at is your lungs.
A chest xray and a breathing test called spirometry can be done in your doctor's office to check to see if you have any signs of emphysema. If you do, your doctor can put you on some inhalers that will likely help you significantly.
A chest xray will also rule out pneumonia.

The second thing that needs to be looked at would be a cardiac (heart) cause of your symptoms. Heart disease can cause chest tightness. Typically, it will start as tightness in the chest that occurs with activity and is relieved with rest. Other common symptoms are shortness of breath. An EKG and possibly a stress test will diagnose this as the cause.

A third common cause of chest tightness is gastrointestinal disease such as acid reflux.

I cannot tell you the exact cause of your tightness. You have risk factors for heart disease (the smoking) and for lung disease (again the smoking)

Until you can see your doctor, I would advise you to go to the emergency room if you develop the following:

Worsening symptoms
Pain in the arm or jaw
Sweating with the tightness
Increasing shortness of breath
Palpitations of the heart

Let me know if you have any follow up questions and I will be happy to discuss further,

Dr Abby

If you are satisfied with my help, please remember to click accept. Thank you!!
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
I called my GP's office for an appointment and they said go to the ER because they can get test results quicker! That is so much money out of pocket! Why can't I get an appointment with an appropriate doctor at the hospital next week? I just want to know what type of doctor to go to. Lung or heart?
Expert:  Dr. Abby replied 7 years ago.
Well, that is frustrating.
I am not sure whether your insurance requires a referral to a specialist or not.
It is hard for me to tell you whether your symptoms are due to your heart or lungs....
The more life-threatening would be if your symptoms were due to your heart so it may benefit you to see a cardiologist first.

If your doctor recommended that you go to the emergency room due to the concern of the possibility of a life threatening symptom, then you should go though....

Dr Abby

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