Costochondritis is an inflammation in the chest where the upper ribs are joined to the sternum, or breast bone, by cartilage. It is a condition that is usually not life threatening and will often go away without treatment, but because of the symptoms, should not be ignored.
When children or adolescents feel chest pains, a common diagnosis is costochondritis, between 10 and 30 percent of cases, but a cause for it is usually not found.
Although the first thing that is thought of when adults have chest pain is a heart attack, they may also be diagnosed with this inflammatory condition. Tests will be completed in order to eliminate a heart attack before moving onto other possibilities as a diagnosis for the pain.
Often there is no definitive cause, but some of the causes include:
* Physical strain on the chest or arms – This will often happen with heavy lifting, a strenuous exercise routine, or overexerting during a physical activity.
* Injury to the chest area – This could be from an accident or fall that causes a blow to the chest.
* Arthritis – Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints. This inflammation can begin to inflame the cartilage of the chest. Types of arthritis include, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
* Tumors – Regardless of whether or not the tumor is cancerous, inflammation in the cartilage of the chest can occur depending on the location of the tumors.
* Viral infections – A viral infection can be a cause because of the inflammation that naturally comes along with the infection, along with strain that is felt in the chest from repetitive coughing.
* Fungal infections – In rare cases, a fungal infection can be the cause.
In addition to the other costochondritis causes, the cause on occasion is from a bacterial infection. It most commonly happens to those that use IV drugs and in those that have recently had surgery on their upper chest. The cartilage of the upper chest can be more prone to a bacterial infection after surgery because the blood flow to the area is reduced during surgery.
Symptoms of Costochondritis
There are a number of symptoms of costochondritis that may be seen. The first that is often noticed are chest pains. The pain that is felt may be a dull, aching pain, but is usually sharp and is on the front of the chest. It is more commonly felt on the left side in one confined location, but will sometimes spread and be felt in the back or stomach as well. Most of the time, the pain will start after exercising, an upper respiratory infection, or minor trauma to the chest area.
Pain may also be felt when a person coughs or takes in a deep breath. The chest pains are typically felt in the fourth, fifth, and sixth ribs. As a person takes in deep breaths or move the upper body, the pain will likely increase and will decrease when the body is not moving or more shallow breaths are taken.
Tenderness of the rib cage will also be noticed when pressure is applied. Applying pressure and checking for tenderness is something a physician will do in order to give a diagnosis.
When an infection from surgery is the cause, there will be redness, pus discharge, or swelling in the location of the surgery.
*** If you believe that you may have costochondritis, seek contact a medical professional immediately.