COPD and Chest Tightness

man with chest pain
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If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you probably experience a feeling of lung tightness or chest tightness from time to time. But why does this happen? And could it be a sign of something worse? Here's what you need to know about chest tightness with COPD.

What Causes Chest Tightness in COPD?

COPD can cause the chest to feel tight because of an increased amount of mucus that is consolidated in the lungs.

It's also caused by a narrowing or blockage of the airways that often occurs in people with COPD. Chest tightness can make it difficult to get air in or out of your lungs, making it harder to breathe.

Chest tightness is also often associated with lung infections, such as chronic bronchitis or bronchiectasis.It can also be related to the narrowing of the airways that occurs in asthma.

Treating Chest Tightness in COPD

Chest tightness can often be relieved through medication and aerosol therapy, such as the use of an albuterol inhaler. Albuterol is a quick-relief medication that works as a bronchodilator, helping to open the airways. It's often used for asthma patients during flare-ups and asthma attacks. Inhalers will not cure the chest tightness that's associated with your COPD, but they can give you temporary relief.

COPD and Heart Failure

Some people with COPD are at greater risk for heart failure because they have lower levels of oxygen in their blood.

One of the most critical complications of COPD is heart failure because people with COPD have lower levels of oxygen in their bloodstream, their heart will often suffer. Since COPD and heart failure share many of the same symptoms, it may be especially difficult for people with COPD to recognize the signs of heart failure.

Here are the signs of a heart attack to be aware of:

  • Chest pain or discomfort in the center of the chest that feels like an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing or fullness. This type of chest pain usually lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and the comes back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both of your arms, back, stomach, jaw, or neck.
  • Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.
  • Cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness.

Many people don't realize that the symptoms of a heart attack can be different in women than in men. Women are more likely than men to experience shortness of breath, nausea, or vomiting and back or jaw pain. They sometimes do not experience the typical chest pains associated with a heart attack and may delay seeking help as a result.

Seek emergency medical care right away if you are having unusual tightness in your chest. It's better to be reassured that it is just a sign of your COPD than to have a heart attack go untreated.

Sources

  • American Heart Association. (2015). Heart Attack Symptoms in Women. 
  • American Heart Association. (2015). Warning Signs of a Heart Attack. 

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