ZocdocAnswersShortness of breath/minor chest pains when taking a deep breath - should I be worried?

Question

Shortness of breath/minor chest pains when taking a deep breath - should I be worried?

I hate wasting time/money if this is minor inflammation or the signs of a minor cold. I have no fever. I've had the shortness of breath (inability to take a real productive deep breath) for about five days. It seemed to start after a day of somewhat strenuous activity (lifting heavy boxes). Aleve helps the symptoms but they haven't really gone away. If it's minor or nothing to worry about, I'd rather not waste my time and my doctors time.

Answer

Please make an appointment with your primary care doctor. Pain in your chest when you are taking a deep breath is called pleuritic chest pain. Chest pain in general is a concerning symptom because it can involve the heart and lung. Chest pain could also be from musculoskeletal strain from lifting heavy boxes. If you did have musculoskeletal chest pain, it should be getting better with time. It is also usually tender when you press on your chest. There are other more serious conditions that should be ruled out though by your doctor. The differential diagnosis for pleuritic chest pain includes pulmonary embolus, pneumonia, pericarditis, or pleural effusions. A pulmonary embolus is a clot in the lung. People are at risk for a pulmonary embolus are people who smoke, obese, women, people who are immobile for long hours, people who take estrogen replacement, and cancer. Pneumonia is an infection in the lung. Pericarditis is inflammation of the lining of your heart. Pleural effusions are fluid surround the outside of your lungs. You should make an appointment with your primary care doctor as soon as possible to be evaluated since your symptoms are not improving. Some of these conditions can be life threatening and if you are worsening before you get to see your doctor, you should go to the emergency room.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.