You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor. However, when you call to set up your appointment, you might be urged to seek immediate medical care if you are experiencing severe, unexplained chest pain.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Keep a record of any symptoms, including where your chest pain starts and how far it spreads. Also keep track of associated symptoms, such as fever, shortness of breath and weight loss.
- Write down any key medical information, including recent hospitalizations, medications, vitamins or supplements you're taking, and any medical conditions you have. Also note whether any family members — especially children — or close friends have recently been ill.
- Write down any key personal information, including recent travel abroad and major life changes. Your doctor might also be interested in your work history, including possible environmental exposure to asbestos.
- Bring a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember questions to ask and what your doctor said.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Questions to ask your doctor
Questions to ask the doctor include:
- What do you think is the underlying cause of my symptoms?
- What kinds of diagnostic tests or procedures do I need, if any?
- What treatment approach do you recommend, besides pain relievers?
- How soon after I begin treatment can I expect to feel better?
- Are there self-care steps I can take to improve my discomfort?
- Do you recommend that I stay home from work or school? For how long?
- Will it help if I stop smoking?
- Am I at risk of long-term complications from this condition?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
What to expect from your doctor
Be ready to answer questions your doctor might ask:
- How would you describe your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve or worsen your symptoms?
- Have you been diagnosed with or treated for any other health conditions?
- Have you recently traveled?
- Have you been involved in any work, projects or hobbies over the years that might have exposed you to asbestos?
- Do or did you smoke? For how long?
What you can do in the meantime
While you wait for your appointment:
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others)
- Try to find a comfortable position and stay in it
- Apply a cold compress to your chest
Nov. 12, 2016
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- Ferri FF. Pleurisy. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2017. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 12, 2016.
- Mason RJ, et al. Pleural effusion. In: Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2016. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 12, 2016.
- Kliegman RM, et al. Pleurisy, pleural effusions, and empyema. In: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2016. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 12, 2016.
- Patient information: Pleuritic chest pain. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 12, 2016.
- Lee YCG. Diagnostic evaluation of pleural effusion in adults: Additional tests for undetermined etiology. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 12, 2016.
- Sheski FD. An overview of medical thoracoscopy. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 19, 2016.