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What are the Common Causes of Chest Swelling?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Chest swelling is not a very common symptom when compared with more typical ones, but there are a variety of conditions which may cause it. Tietze Syndrome is a swelling of the cartilage of the ribs. Sometimes serious health conditions like an aneurysm can also cause swelling of the chest. Other times, the chest will only feel swollen, such as during episodes of severe gas or indigestion.

Injury to the muscles or tissues of the chest are common causes of swelling. This can occur after an accident where the chest is subjected to some sort of blunt trauma, or after a hard workout. Swelling may be accompanied by mild to severe pain, stiffness, and trouble moving. In most cases this will go away on its own, but in severe instances treatment may be required.

One of the most common causes of chest swelling is Tietze syndrome. This is a condition which causes inflammation and swelling around the cartilage of the rib cage. It is similar to arthritis and can cause severe pain in the chest. Swelling is generally noticeable upon examination by a physician. Most patients notice a decrease in swelling and pain within three months of onset, although for some, it can be a chronic condition.

Occasionally an aneurysm can lead to chest swelling, although this is rare. An aneurysm is a blood vessel which has become bulged and filled with blood. Aneurysms can be fatal if they burst and many patients do not know they have one until the condition is progressed. The type which may cause chest swelling occurs in the vessels leading to and from the heart. Treatment should be begun right away to prevent rupture, although many treatments for this condition are risky.

Cancers of the lungs or breasts may also lead to swelling in the chest. Most cancer eventually causes a tumor to develop and this can cause mild to severe swelling in the area of the chest where the tumor is located. Cancer is a serious medical condition which must be treated promptly. The survival rate will depend on how early the cancer is detected and treated.

Sometimes benign conditions can lead to chest swelling. Excessive intestinal or swallowed gas can cause a swollen feeling in the lower chest and upper abdominal regions. This condition can be painful, but is generally short-term and does not cause any serious issues. It is also preventable for most individuals by avoiding foods which cause excessive gas production.

Patients who have swelling in the chest should consult a doctor immediately. In most cases the cause will not be serious, but in the event of a critical health condition, treatment will be needed as soon as possible. Testing can be done using X-rays or other devices to determine the cause of swelling. A diagnosis will be made using these tests combined with patient history and additional symptoms.

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Discussion Comments
By Ana1234 — On Oct 19, 2013

I tend to get quite a lot of pain in the chest area when I don't take proper care to make sure my backpack isn't overloaded or strapped on wrong.

Often I won't notice it during the day when I'm actually wearing the thing, but it will hurt later that night.

By irontoenail — On Oct 19, 2013

@pleonasm - I just want to reemphasize that men can also get breast cancer. It doesn't get mentioned much because breast cancer has been highlighted as a "women's issue" but men can definitely suffer from it as well and it might even be more deadly for them, since they rarely have the same awareness of it that women do. And people of both genders are generally unaware of the fact that breast tissue actually extends into the armpits, so cancer can occur there as well.

Any abnormal swelling or pain, whether it is in the chest or pain under your arm should be checked out.

By pleonasm — On Oct 18, 2013

Many women are unaware of the fact that breast cancer does not always show up as an obvious lump. The lump might be so small that it is undetectable. There are lots of other signs of breast cancer and it's definitely worth knowing them so that you know when to go and get checked out. The sooner breast cancer is diagnosed, the better and early detection can save your life.

A swollen breast is one sign of breast cancer, and if there is any dimpling or lumpiness in that breast that can be another sign. You might also have a lump or swelling in the armpits and underarm pain. Your nipple might change in appearance, such as inverting or beginning to leak.

There are some really good guides for this online with pictures of what it might look like. If you have any reason to think you might have or get breast cancer (this includes men and women) then I would go and look up the signs.

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