Dr.Kamini Silvarajan MD/AAAM

Editorial Board: Dr.Kamini Silvarajan MD/AAAM

Chest Tightness Asthma

Chest tightness often happens in asthma patients, either alone or with the other classic symptoms of asthma like:-
  1. Wheezing
  2. Shortness of breath
  3. 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 disease, COPD, 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:-
  1. How frequent do you get the chest tightness?
  2. What were you are doing when the chest tightness happens?
  3. What makes the chest tightness go away?
  4. Did you noticed other classic asthma symptoms happen with the chest tightness?
  5. What makes the chest tightness get better(if you have done anything)?
  6. 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:

  1. Pulse oximetry(is a non-invasive method allowing the monitoring of the oxygenation of a patient’s hemoglobin)
  2. Peak flow
  3. 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)
  4. Chest x-ray
  5. Spirometry
  6. Complete pulmonary function testing
  7. Cat scan
  8. Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  9. 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)
  10. 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.