Lung Pain: 9 Main Causes & What To Do

Lung pain is a type of pain that appears in the chest area, and even though it may be linked to some kind of pulmonary problem, it can also signal a problem in any other organ of the chest cavity, not being necessarily related to the lungs. This happen because the lungs have almost no pain receptors, which hinders their capability to cause pain.

If you have any kind of discomfort in the chest area that does not improve with time, or that gets worse quickly or does not disappear within 24 hours, you should visit a doctor who can do a general assessment, in order to diagnose the right cause and start appropriate treatment.

Lung Pain: 9 Main Causes & What To Do

The most common causes for lung pain include:

1. Pleurisy

Pleurisy, also known as pleuritis, is an inflammation of the pleura, which is a membrane that lines the lungs and the inside of the thorax. It can cause symptoms such as chest pain when breathing deeply, cough and difficulty breathing. 

Generally speaking, this problem arises due to a buildup of liquid between the two layers of the pleura and it's more frequent in people who have any kind of health problem that can affect breathing, such as flu, pneumonia or other lung infections.  

What to do: if you suspect of pleurisy it's important you get medical help or visit a pulmonologist, who will confirm the diagnosis and start adequate treatment. Treatment usually depends on the cause of pleurisy, but symptoms can be managed with anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed by the doctor, such as ibuprofen. 

2. Respiratory infection

Lung infections, such as tuberculosis, pneumonia or COVID-19, can also cause chest pain, which is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as breathing problems, excess mucous, cough with or without blood, fever, chills and night sweats. 

What to do: if you suspect a lung infection, you must visit a pulmonologist immediately to prevent the infection from getting worse. Generally, treatment involves antibiotics and other medications to relieve symptoms.

3. Asthma

Asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs that causes irritation and inflammation of the airways. During a crisis, asthma can cause chest pain, wheezing, breathlessness and intense cough. 

What to do: treatment for asthma usually involves the use of corticosteroids and bronchodilators for the long-term. In addition, there are other ways of preventing an asthma attacks, such as avoiding having pets at home, keeping the house clean, avoiding carpets and curtains, and keeping away from smokers.

4. Pulmonary embolism

Also known as lung thrombosis, this is an emergency situation where a blood vessel in the lung gets blocked. This causes a decreased blood flow to the affected area, resulting in pain when breathing or sudden breathlessness, which tend to get worse overtime.

Pulmonary embolism is most common in people who have had recent thrombosis, who have undergone recent surgery, or who have had to spend a long time in bed without moving.

What to do: pulmonary embolism is a medical emergency, that needs to be treated at the hospital with anticoagulant medication such as heparin, which will help dissolve the clot so the blood circulates again. In addition, the patient may also need to take sone analgesics to relieve chest pain. 

5. Atelectasis

Atelectasis is a respiratory complication that happens due to the collapse of the lung alveoli which usually occurs due to cystic fibrosis or lesions to the lung, resulting in intense difficulty breathing, persistent cough, and constant chest pain. 

What to do: any change that causes intense respiratory difficulty must be assessed by a pulmonologist as soon as possible. So the best thing to do is go to the hospital. Treatment depends on the cause and in serious cases, the doctor may resort to surgery to clean the airways or even remove the affected area of the lungs.

6. Emphysema

Emphysema is a situation in which the lungs lose elasticity throughout time, which results in the destruction of alveoli and symptoms such as breathlessness, fatigue, chest pain, persistent cough, and wheezing.

What to do: it's recommended you avoid places with a lot of smoke and pollutants, and avoid smoking. In addition, it's important you visit a pulmonologist so that he can assess your symptoms and recommend the most suitable treatment, which may involve medication to dilate the lung structures and relieve symptoms.

7. Pneumothorax

Pneumothorax happens when air escapes to the pleural space, which is the area between the lungs and the thoracic wall, increasing the pressure on the lungs and causing intense pain when breathing, breathlessness, heart rate changes, and bluish skin, especially on the fingers and lips.

What to do: if you suspect of a pneumothorax it's very important to go to a hospital as. soon as possible. In cases of pneumothorax, it's common practice for there to be a procedure to remove the excess air that is accumulated.

8. Heart disease

Some heart diseases, such as heart attack, angina, and arrhythmia can also cause intense chest pain, as well as palpitations, swelling, fatigue, and rapid breathing. In case of a heart attack, it's common for the pain to radiate to the arm and cause a tingling sensation.

What to do: if you suspect you might have a cardiac disease it's recommended you visit a cardiologist so that tests can be done in order to identify the right cause and start correct treatment. 

9. Anxiety attack

In situations of anxiety or panic attacks, some people may feel chest pain, specially if they start breathing faster than normal. This can lead to an unbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide, which will also cause dizziness, headache, and concentration problems.

What to do: a good way to decrease anxiety and relieve pain is to breathe into a paper bag for at least five minutes while trying to control breathing. If the pain does not improve, you should go to the hospital.  

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