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Chest tightness and pressure below sternum

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It began as what I thought were hunger pangs, which turned into a sharp cramping sensation just below my sternum. I had some food and while the feeling diminished, it stayed as a dull pressure.

Several days BEFORE I had chest tightness when swallowing food/drink, and sharp pain on right side of chest if it was spicy. Those feelings went away in a few days.It started after I swallowed large chunks of bread too quickly.

Back to tonight,I went to bed, still feeling mild pressure below sternum. It felt like something was resting on my gut. I felt like I had to breath harder to get air. An hour or so after going to bed I rolled over onto my stomach and felt a sudden feeling of chest tightness and had to get up, breathing heavily, fast heartbeat and feeling of panic. The sensation diminished but I still feel stressed.

Could this be cardiac related, or a continuation of gastric issues, or anxiety attack? I stress and fear the worst when I find something wrong and dont know what it is.


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replied January 16th, 2010
Digestive and Bowel Disorders Answer A9219
Hi and welcome to the forum! I am glad that I can help you.

You would like to know the cause of pain and mild pressure below the sternum that you are experiencing.

Pain in the upper middle part of the abdomen, just below the lowest part of the sternum is common for stomach problems. In a stomach ulcer the pain is severe and appears one to two hours before eating. This pain is also potentiated by consuming spicy or acidic food. Pain and heartburn in the same area may appear due to acid reflux and hiatal hernia. It appears when an individual lies down or when there is sudden pressure over the stomach.

Given the symptoms of pain below the sternum that is related to food intake, it is likely that you may be experiencing either a hiatal hernia or a stomach ulcer. Consider seeing a gastroenterologist for further advice and information about diagnosis of these two conditions.

Please keep in mind that I provide medical information only. I am not able to diagnose medical conditions online. Please contact your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider such as a gastroenterologist for further advice and information about diagnosis and treatment options.


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