Causes of Lung Chest Pain

The most common causes of pulmonary chest pain is a result of pathology within the lungs although conditions affecting the air passages may also cause chest pain. Lung chest pain may either be one side or affect both sides simultaneously and some of the common symptoms that occur along with the chest pain includes shortness of breath, abnormal breathing sounds and/or coughing.

Asthma

Asthma is the inflammation and narrowing of the bronchioles which are the small tubes that empty air into the lung sacs. Chest pain is not a common symptom of asthma but may occur in severe or prolonged attacks of asthma (status asthmaticus).

Other symptoms of a severe asthma attack include a difficulty breathing which is not relieved by change in position or medication, tight chest pain, wheezing, difficulty in coughing, blue lips, dizziness and fainting spells.

Bronchitis

Bronchitis is the inflammation of the lining of the bronchi. These tubes branch from the trachea (wind pipe) and further subdivide into bronchioles.

Bronchitis may be acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis is often due to an infection, especially a secondary bacterial infection which may occur after the seasonal flu (influenza) or a common cold. Chronic bronchitis tends to occur in long term smokers.

Both types of bronchitis will cause persistent coughing with intermittent chest pain that is aggravated by the cough. A fever may also be present in acute bronchitis due to an infection.

Pulmonary Embolism

A pulmonary embolism occurs when a clot lodges in the pulmonary artery, a blood vessel that carries blood to the lungs for gas exchange. This type of embolism occurs suddenly, typically without any warning and is one of the most common causes of a sudden chest pain. A pulmonary embolism is a serious medical condition and is potentially life threatening.

Some of the common symptoms of a pulmonary embolism includes shortness of breath (dyspnea), coughing, wheezing, increased heart rate (tachycardia), dizziness and/or fainting spells, sweating and pallor. A pulmonary embolism may be mistaken for a heart attack (myocardial infarction).

Pleurisy

Pleurisy is the inflammation of the lining of the lungs (pleura) and is also known as pleuritis. There are two layers of the pleura, one of which surrounds the lung and the other that lines the chest wall. Some of the causes of pleurisy include respiratory tract infections, cardiac failure, smoke or toxic gas inhalation, trauma of cancer of the lung or pleura.

The symptoms of pleurisy include a sharp, stabbing pain that is aggravated when breathing. There may be shortness of breath as well as abnormal breathing sounds due to fluid accumulation between the pleura (pleural effusion).

Pneumothorax

A pneumothorax or ‘collapsed lung’ occurs when air enters the space between the lung and chest wall. There are different types of pneumothorax caused by a range of factors including trauma to the chest wall, emphysema, tuberculosis (TB), pneumonia, lung cancer, cystic fibrosis and forced or unusually deep inhalation.

The signs and symptoms of a pneumothorax include diminished or abnormal breathing sounds usually on one side of the chest, sharp or tight chest pain and shortness of breath.

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is the inflammation of the lungs usually caused by an infection or due to aspiration of gastric contents into the lung.

Signs and symptoms of pneumonia may include a productive cough (mucus, sputum or phlegm), fever and chills, shortness of breath, fatigue and chest pain that aggravates with breathing.

Tracheitis

Tracheitis is the inflammation of the trachea (wind or air pipe) usually due to an infection. The most common cause of tracheitis is a secondary bacterial infection that follows a viral infection such as the seasonal flu or common cold.

Other symptoms of tracheitis include a deep, hoarse cough, fever, difficulty breathing and stridor.


Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on March 28, 2012