Do Your Lungs Hurt When You Wake Up? Is That a PH Symptom? | myPHteam

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Do Your Lungs Hurt When You Wake Up? Is That a PH Symptom?

Medically reviewed by Angelica Balingit, M.D.
Written by Sarah Winfrey
Posted on October 18, 2023

If you’ve been diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH), your doctor has likely told you that one of the symptoms you may notice is chest pain. Even if you know to expect it, though, experiencing chest pain can be scary.

Chest pain can be managed more easily when you understand how it’s associated with PH. Here’s what you need to know so you don’t feel panicked if you have chest and lung pain upon waking.

What Does It Feel Like To Wake Up With Lung Pain?

What many people with PH refer to as “lung pain” is also known as chest pain. For most people who experience this upon waking, it feels very similar to the chest discomfort you may have at any other time of day.

On myPHteam, members regularly discuss their chest pain. Some people feel like all or part of their chest is being squeezed, like one member who wrote, “Yesterday, I went to the emergency hospital for squeezing chest pain on the right side of my chest. It lasted about 40 minutes.”

Others experience chest pain alongside other symptoms: “I have more than usual chest pain, and I have zero energy and I am pale,” shared one member.

Another member described waking up and feeling “shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, and fluid retention again.” These are all symptoms of PH.

Still, others find that they’re more likely to experience chest pain at certain times of the day. One member mentioned, “I normally have more chest pain in the evenings.” Others may notice the pain when they awaken in the morning.

Chest pain is a symptom you should never ignore. Instead, it’s important to understand how it’s tied to PH.

What Causes You To Wake Up With Lung Pain if You Have Pulmonary Hypertension?

PH itself can cause chest and lung pain at any time, including upon waking. PH occurs when there’s extra pressure (high blood pressure) in the arteries that connect the right side of your heart and your lungs.

Every time your heart beats, its lower right portion, called the right ventricle, pumps blood through the pulmonary artery to the lungs. There, the blood picks up oxygen breathed in by the lungs. Next, the blood goes back to the heart and gets pumped throughout the body, delivering essential oxygen to all your tissues.

Whenever the diameter of the arteries and other blood vessels in your lungs gets smaller, pressure can build in that area. There’s not enough space for your heart to pump blood effectively and keep your blood flow high enough to oxygenate your body. This is PH, and it can be caused by a wide variety of factors. Your health care provider can help you figure out what’s behind your PH.

PH requires the heart to work harder to pump blood to the lungs, and that’s what causes your chest pain. The sensation may feel like lung pain because your lungs and your heart are close together, but the pain actually stems from your heart’s extra effort.

Your posture while sleeping may contribute to your morning lung pain. If you sleep in a position that puts additional stress on your heart or lungs, you may experience lung pain when you wake up even if it doesn’t continue throughout the day.

Some people with PH experience angina, which is chest pain that happens when your heart doesn’t get enough oxygen via blood from the lungs. This is not a condition in and of itself but another symptom of PH.

Other Causes of Chest Pain

Being diagnosed with PH doesn’t necessarily mean that this condition is causing your chest or lung pain upon waking. This kind of pain can have a variety of causes, including medical conditions such as heart disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or acid reflux. If chest or lung pain is a new symptom, it should be evaluated right away. Only a qualified cardiologist can tell you for sure whether the pain is related to PH.

Managing Lung Pain When You Wake Up

You can take a few steps to manage lung and chest pain that you feel when you wake up in the morning.

Treat Pulmonary Hypertension

Although there’s no way to cure PH, a number of treatment options are available, including:

  • Vasodilators (blood vessel dilators) to help open narrowed blood vessels
  • Anticoagulants (blood thinners) to make it easier for blood to flow
  • Diuretics (water pills) to eliminate built-up body fluid

It may take you and your health care professional time to figure out which approach works best for you. However, that will pay off when you have more good days and no longer wake up with chest pain.

The available treatment options for your condition depend on the cause and severity of your PH, as well as other factors about your health. Your cardiology team should be able to help you figure out what will work best in your particular situation. Medication has helped at least one myPHteam member, who said, “I’m on isosorbide twice a day to assist with chest pain.”

Improve Your Lifestyle

You can’t make PH go away, but you may be able to feel better and stay in good health longer by making some lifestyle changes. Eat a healthy diet, and consult a dietitian if you’d like guidance. Do your best to get as much physical activity as you can handle, which will keep your heart muscle as healthy as possible. Try to keep your weight in a healthy range so you don’t add to your body’s stress. Avoid cigarette smoke, high altitudes, and anything that lowers your blood pressure. Get plenty of rest, and make extra space to take it easy if you’re having a lot of bad days in a row.

Connect With Others

Living with PH can be scary, especially if you aren’t sure what to expect or you’ve just been diagnosed. Connecting with people who are going through the same thing can help, as it allows you to share your experience with others who’ve undergone similar challenges.

Support groups are a great way to get to know others with PH. You can find communities in person or online, and your medical team should be able to help you get connected. These groups can be a huge support when it comes to managing lung pain in the morning or other symptoms you experience throughout the day.

Speak With Your Doctor

If you wake up with lung or chest pain, it’s essential to consult with your cardiologist or seek immediate medical attention. Your cardiologist will want to know about this symptom, especially if it’s new or getting worse. They may be able to change your medication or offer solutions that aren’t discussed above. You might also need additional tests to determine whether your PH is worsening or if the chest pain is coming from something else. Remember, every symptom is worthy of your doctor’s attention.

Talk With Others Who Understand

On myPHteam, the social network for people with pulmonary hypertension and their loved ones, more than 51,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with pulmonary hypertension.

Are you wondering if your lungs hurt when you wake up because of PH? What strategies have you tried to help manage the morning pain? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on October 18, 2023
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    Angelica Balingit, M.D. is a specialist in internal medicine, board certified since 1996. Learn more about her here.
    Sarah Winfrey is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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