Right-Sided Chest Pain

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Definition

What is Right-Sided Chest Pain?

Your chest is home to other organs and tissues that may be inflamed or injured, causing you to feel pain.  Right-sided chest pain is pain that occurs primarily on the right side of your chest. Pain in the right side of your chest can happen for a number of reasons.

How common is Right-Sided Chest Pain?

Right-Sided Chest Pain is quite common. It can occur in patients in any gender at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Which signs and symptoms can Right-Sided Chest Pain usually be associated with?

Related signs and symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Persistent cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Heartburn
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Jaundice
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Palpitations
  • Lightheadedness
  • Burping

Causes

What causes Right-Sided Chest Pain?

Causes of Right-Sided Chest Pain can include:

Cardiovascular Causes

Some other heart and blood vessel related conditions which may cause right-sided chest pain include:

  • Coronary artery disease – As noted earlier, heart disease may cause pain on both sides of the chest or only on the right side. This is more commonly found with conditions involving the right side of the heart.
  • Pericarditis – Pericarditis is an inflammation of the pericardium, the protective membrane surrounding the heart. There are many causes of pericarditis ranging from infections to cancer treatment, to kidney disease, to autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. It is also common after people have had a heart attack. The pain is often worse in certain positions and becomes more intense with a deep breath.
  • Dissecting aortic aneurysm – A dissecting aortic aneurysm occurs when a tear in the aorta allows blood to flow between the layers of the blood vessel wall and dissects or tears the blood vessel. The pain is often severe, sudden, and sharp, and may be described as a tearing pain. Unconsciousness may follow rapidly. Perhaps best remembered as the form of trauma Princess Diana sustained, it may also occur without any trauma in people with high blood pressure or connective tissue conditions such as Marfan syndrome.

Lung-Related Causes

The three lobes of the right lung, as well as the lining of the right lung and associated lymph nodes, are located on the right side of the chest. The lungs themselves do not have pain receptors, but you may still experience pain that “feels” like it is in your right lung. Possible causes of pain may include:

  • Pulmonary emboli – Pulmonary emboli occur when blood clots in the legs (deep venous thrombosis) break off and travel toward the lungs. If the clot lodges in vessels of the right lung, pain may occur. This pain is often sudden and sharp and may be associated with severe shortness of breath. With large clots, unconsciousness may follow rapidly. People may or may not recall having pain, redness, or swelling in one or both legs prior to a pulmonary embolus. Unfortunately, pulmonary emboli are very common, occurring in over half a million people each year. They are fatal around 10 percent of the time. Risk factors include many chronic diseases, prolonged bed rest or surgery, and long-distance travel by plane or by car, yet a significant number of people do not have any obvious risk factors.
  • Lung cancer – Tumors in the right lung, the lining of the right lung, or nearby lymph nodes can cause pain on the right side of the chest. Roughly half of people, looking back, have some pain in the chest, in their shoulder blades or pain between the shoulder blades, or into their shoulders, prior to diagnosis of lung cancer. Other symptoms may be present such as shortness of breath or a persistent cough. Since lung cancer is often diagnosed in the later stages after it has spread, it is important to have any unexplained pain on the right side of your chest evaluated.
  • Other tumors – Tumors other than lung cancer may occur in the chest cavity as well, particularly lymphomas. In addition, metastases (spread) from other cancers such as breast cancer and colon cancer may occur to the lungs.
  • Pneumonia – Pneumonia, especially infections of your right lung could cause chest pain on the right side of your chest. People with pneumonia often, but not always, have a fever and cough.
  • Pneumothorax – A collapse of a lung called a pneumothorax may occur and cause pain on the right side of the chest.
  • Pleural effusions – A pleural effusion is a build-up of fluid in the space between the pleural membranes surrounding the lungs. There are many causes of pleural effusions. When an effusion is small, there may only be discomfort, but with large effusions shortness of breath is often present as well. With lung cancer and breast cancer, cancerous pleural effusions (malignant pleural effusions) can be quite painful.
  • Pleurisy (Pleuritic chest pain) – Inflammation of the linings of the lung, called the pleura, can cause often persistent right sided chest pain. This pain often increases with a deep breath and can sometimes feel scratchy.

Gastrointestinal Causes

Abdominal conditions, especially those involving the esophagus or organs on the right side of the abdomen such as the gallbladder and liver may cause pain restricted to the right side of the chest. Some conditions which may cause right-sided chest pain include:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – GERD may cause classic symptoms of heartburn and indigestion, but may also be felt as pain in the right side of the chest alone.
  • Esophageal foreign body – A cause of right-sided chest pain that is sometimes overlooked is that of an esophageal foreign body. If your symptoms began while eating, especially meats, make sure to let your doctor know.
  • Esophageal spasm – Esophageal spasm can cause right sided chest pain. Pain from esophageal spasm may be easily confused with that from heart disease as it often improves with nitroglycerine.
  • Gallbladder disease – Both gallstones and cholecystitis, an infection of the gallbladder may be felt as right-sided chest pain. This pain often radiates through to the back and may also radiate to the right shoulder.
  • Pancreatitis – The pain associated with pancreatitis can be worse with lying down and better with sitting up. People with diabetes and excess alcohol intake are at an increased risk.
  • Peptic ulcer disease/gastritis – Both peptic ulcer disease and gastritis may cause pain which is felt in the right side of the chest, though it is more common on the left. The pain may initially actually improve somewhat with eating.
  • Liver disease – Liver diseases such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, and even tumors which have spread to the liver (metastases) may cause pain which is felt in the right side of the chest. There is sometimes associated jaundice, a yellowish discoloration of the skin and the whites of the eyes.

Musculoskeletal Causes

With trauma, fractures and damage to soft tissue such as muscles and ligaments can cause chest pain. Without a history of trauma, there are several conditions which may also give rise to right-sided chest pain. Some of these include:

  • Costochondritis – Costochondritis is a condition in which there is inflammation of the cartilage where the ends of the ribs join with the sternum (the costochondral junction.) It is usually caused by a chronic overuse type of injury so most people do not recall any specific trauma. The pain tends to worsen with activity or with a deep breath, and there is often tenderness when pressure is placed over the rib junctions. A less common problem, Tietze’s syndrome is similar but includes swelling and usually involves only one rib.
  • Muscle strain – Muscle strains are one of the more common causes of right-sided chest pain. Many people can recall activities such as heavy lifting or a new workout program that they engaged in before developing this type of pain.
  • Chest wall pain – There are many conditions which may cause chest wall pain in addition to costochondritis ranging from fibromyalgia to stress fractures to sickle cell crisis.
  • Cervical or thoracic spine conditions – Conditions such as disc disease or compressed vertebrae may cause pain that is felt on the right side of the chest, either due to the location of a condition or due to referred pain from involved nerves. Sometimes metastases to the spine from breast cancer, lung cancer, and other tumors are first noted as chest pain on the right side.

Other Causes

There are several other possible causes of pain in the right side of the chest. Some of these include:

  • Shingles – Shingles is a condition which occurs when the chickenpox virus (which lives in nerve roots) is reactivated. If the virus has been lying dormant in nerve roots supplying the right side of the chest, pain may occur in this region. A rash usually occurs in the distribution of the nerve roots and helps to make the diagnosis, but the pain may precede the rash by several days making the diagnosis at first difficult.
  • Mediastinal tumors – Tumors or enlarged lymph nodes in the mediastinum, the area of the chest between the lungs, can cause chest pain felt on either side of the chest but may occur only on the right side. Enlargement of the mediastinal lymph nodes may occur with both Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas as well as from the spread of lung cancer or breast cancer. Thymomas, bronchogenic cysts, and other benign tumors may occur in this region.
  • Breast pain – If pain due to a breast condition occurs deep in the breast it may feel like the pain lies deeper in the chest.
  • Anxiety and panic disorder – About 40 percent of people with panic disorder experience frightening chest pain at some time. Atypical chest pain associated with panic disorder is unique in some ways, but you always want to err on the side of caution. People who have anxiety or even panic disorder can also experience life-threatening causes of chest pain.

Causes shown above are those that commonly cause Right-Sided Chest Pain. Consult with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Right-Sided Chest Pain?

Having one or more risk factors for any of the diseases mentioned above may increase your risk of right-sided chest pain.

Please consult with your doctor for further information.

When to see your doctor

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you or your loved one has any of the following:

Whenever someone is experiencing chest pain, regardless of the location within the chest, they should mention it to their doctor promptly.

While there are many explanations for right-sided chest pain that are not an emergency, there are some medical conditions that require urgent care.

Signs that someone needs emergency care include:

  • Sudden onset of severe chest pain
  • Crushing pain in the chest
  • Chest pain with shortness of breath
  • Pain that radiates to the jaw or arms
  • Chest pain accompanied by dizziness or weakness
  • Change in or loss of consciousness

On noticing one of these symptoms or having any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor to get the best solutions for your situation.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Right-Sided Chest Pain?

These following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Right-Sided Chest Pain:

  • Lie down in a comfortable position with your head up.
  • If you have regular adult aspirin or its equivalent, chew one (as long as you are not allergic to aspirin). Chewing more than one will not do any good and may cause unwanted side effects.
  • If you have had angina before and been evaluated by your health care provider, follow his or her recommendations.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor for the best solutions.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: December 3, 2018 | Last Modified: December 3, 2018

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