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Date of last update: 10/19/2017.

Forum Name: Chest symptoms

Question: Sharp Chest Pain / Shortness of breath /Stomach Sickness

 sherbear - Wed Jan 07, 2009 12:22 pm

Hi there,

I am a 22 year old female. Former smoker of 7 years. I also worked in the construction industry around alot of dust and insulation for 2 years, and since then have worked in warehouses. I do alot of physical work, and am fairly physically active (was more active up until the pain started).

About 7 months ago I started experiancing pain in the left side of my chest. At first I thought i was having a heart attack and immediantly went to the emergancy room. They have me an EKG and a chest x-ray and decided that it was all in my head.

Anyway, the pain continued and got worse as it did. .
Since then I have seen 3 different doctors. One of them sent me for an ultrasound of my breast, but the results came back negative. The other 2 sent me for MORE xrays of my chest (even though I had told them that I had xrays already) and said they looked fine and sent me home. One of them told me they would get a specialist to call me, which was 4 months ago and nothing has happened. Unfourtunatly I do not have a family doctor, as I move from city to city alot.

The best way I can describe the pain is a sharp stabbing pain in my lung. It moves around to the back, but mostly stays in the front under my breast. I get pains in my collar bone and down my arm. Recently it has been sending sharp pains down my side and into my leg as well. I get a shortness of breath at time (not all the time) and I get a bloated naceous feeling at the same time. The pain is pretty much constant. I might get lucky and go 1 day, or even half a day with no pain. There does not seem to be anything I do that makes it worse, or better.
My boyfriend has also been telling me for the past 3 years that I hold my breath when I sleep, and sometimes quit breathing for a couple of seconds. (Which sounds to me like sleep apnia, which runs in my family) Could this have anything to do with the pain that I am experiancing?.
Also, are there any suggestions for finding a doctor who can help me with this? I am getting desperate. It is really holding me back from doing alot of things because I am scared. I have put on 10 pounds since this started because I can not do any cardio whatsoever, without feeling like I am going to pass out.

Also, I do have a history of colon cancer. My father was diagnosed in September and passed away at the beginning of December.

Thanks alot.
 John Kenyon, CNA - Thu Jan 08, 2009 9:23 pm

User avatar Hello -

First, my deepest sympathies on the recent loss of your father.

This pain should at least be looked into so that the most obvious and most serious potential problems can be ruled out. While it sounds atypical for cardiac pain, most women do present with atypical pain. The fact that you're young and otherwise healthy probably has led doctors to ignore this possibility, and while at your age it is less likely than post-menopause, it is possible and should always be ruled out first. There are also other, non-coronary-related pains that can happen that aren't necessarily as serious but still deserve diagnosis and possible treatment. At the very least you should have been given an electrocardiogram (EKG) to rule out any gross abnormalities. You probably should have an echocardiogram as well, since mitral valve prolapse (MVP) is very common in the general population and about twice as common among women as men. While MVP is almost always benign, it can cause some pretty scary symptoms such as left-sided chest pain, palpitations, occasional shortness of breath, etc. When MVP causes symptoms they can be treated with a simple medication and/or exercise and relaxation exercises.

There is also the possibility, further down the ladder of seriousness, that this could be a nerve-muscle-orthopedic problem caused by a strain or pull caused by the very physical sort of work you do. It could even be a very simple orthopedic problem known as costochrondritis, which is inflammation of the cartilage between the ribs.

The pain down your leg may or may not be related to the chest pains, since due to the nature of your work you're at greater risk of orthepedic and muscle injuries and could have more than one problem with your spine causing separate problems.

One way to help rule out cardiac involvement regarding the pain is to find out if it can be provoked or worsened by physical movement, twisting of the upper body, raising of the arms, or direct pressure on the affected area. Can you tell me if this is true or not? Also, is it worsened by exercise? These are important things which would be very helpful in clarifying what's going on.

The observation of your boyfriend that you seem to pause or hold your breath when you're breathing should probably be looked into as well, as you have a family history of sleep apnea. While it seems unlikely it is possible. It's hard to tell whether this would be related to the other symptoms or not, but it would be worth learning if this is a real problem or not.

If you move too often to establish a primary care physician relationship then your best bet is probably to be seen at an acute care facility and use it as your temporary primary care source. You can be referred to local specialists this way, also. You should probably be seen by a cardiologist and maybe pulmonologist as well. There are a lot of possible causes of your symptoms and it's difficult to narrow them down at a distance this way. I hope this has been somewhat helpful. Good luck to you and please follow up with us as needed.

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