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Shortness of breath and rib pain

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My grandmother has had shortness of breath for a while now. She refuses to tell her doctor. It gets so bad sometimes she can't hardly talk. She is in her late 70's, has never smoked. She also has sharp rib pain. A short while ago she had tingling and numbness in her face, tongue, hands, feet. I am very concerned! Please give me some possibilities so I can present them to her and maybe if she thinks it is serious enough, I can get her to go to the doctor!

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replied February 24th, 2010
Lungs and Respiratory Disorders Answer A10253
Hi, welcome to the ehealth forum and I am glad to help you.
You seem to be concerned by the breathlessness in your grandmother along with numbness in hands and feet and a sharp pain in the ribs.
At such an elder age of late seventies, with symptoms of breathlessness, the possibility of heart disease need to be ruled out. It might be the first sign of slowly developing heart failure. Cause may the untreated high blood pressure or coronary blockages. The sharp pain in the chest at elder age is usually taken to be anginal pain unless proved otherwise. Proper investigations including ECG, echocardiography and chest x-ray should be done and if indicated coronary angiography to delineate the blockage if suspected. Breathlessness can also be due to lung diseases including COPD etc. though it is more likely in persons with history of cigarette smoking.
Other causes of breathlessness include anemia, superior vena cava syndrome, lung or breast cancer, pneumonia with pleural effusion, irregular heart rhythm, pericardial effusion etc.
Potential causes of tingling and numbness which need to be considered in your grandmother include diabetes, carpal tunnel syndrome, migraine, hypothyroidism, B12 deficiency etc.
Hope this helps. Take care.
Note: This post is not to emphasise final diagnosis as the same cannot be made online and is aimed just to provide medical information and no treatment suggested above be taken without face to face consultation with health care professional.

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