Burning chest - causes, treatment and home remedies

Burning chest - causes, treatment and home remedies

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Breastburn: burning in the chest

If there is a burning sensation in the chest, many people experience an uncomfortable feeling and fear of a serious illness such as a heart attack. This can theoretically be the case, which is why, especially in the case of persistent pain on the left and parallel symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest tightness, cold sweat and nausea, a doctor should always be called as soon as possible. However, burning pain in the chest area is more common due to other causes such as nerve irritation, muscle tension or a bruised rib.

The burning sensation can be an indication of bronchial asthma, acute bronchitis or pneumonia. In women, a benign change in the breast tissue is also an option. If the nipples are particularly affected, there is often inflammation of the mammary gland, which can arise, for example, as a result of incorrect breastfeeding technique. If the doctor has made a diagnosis, the treatment of the burning can be very different and, depending on the cause, include a variety of procedures, medications or proven home remedies.

Burning chest in women

A relatively common cause of burning, pulling, or stinging pain in the female breast is so-called mastopathy, which is a benign change in the mammary gland tissue. In most cases, this is triggered by hormonal fluctuations or an excess of estrogen, which normally affects women during sexual maturity until the onset of menopause, particularly often between the ages of 35 and 55.

In addition to this, other hormonal diseases such as a thyroid dysfunction (hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism) can be considered as a trigger.

Depending on the tissue changes, medically different forms of mastopathy are distinguished. If the gland cells in particular grow particularly rapidly and accordingly release more fluid, many small fluid-filled gland lobes often form, which are also referred to as “cysts” (“cystic mastopathy”).

On the other hand, if the connective tissue is particularly affected by excessive growth, this is referred to as "fibrous mastopathy", but a combination of both forms occurs most often ("fibrous-cystic mastopathy"). Overall, it can be assumed that roughly every second woman between 35 and 55 years is more or less severely affected by such changes in the breast, which makes mastopathy the most common benign mammary gland disease in women.

A typical symptom is the swelling of both breasts a few days before the onset of the period, with the breast being very sensitive at the same time. In addition, there is usually an increased feeling of tension and / or pain, which many women describe as pulling or stinging. Often there is a feeling "as if the chest is burning inside". Symptoms are usually most pronounced in the second half of the cycle, but usually decrease with the onset of the period.

If cysts have formed in the course of mastopathy, these can often be felt as granular hardenings or nodules, which are often sensitive to pressure, depending on the cycle. In rare cases, a small amount of whitish, cloudy liquid also emerges from the nipple (mamilla), and in exceptional cases there may be signs of inflammation such as redness, swelling and overheating.

In general, it is typical of mastopathy that the symptoms appear in most cases on both sides and in the upper area of ​​the breast. The complaints can vary in severity from case to case, so that some women do not notice any signs at all and the finding is more or less accidental during an examination.

Since a change in the mammary gland tissue is usually mild, in most cases it does not require therapy; if there are more severe symptoms, relief is e.g. possible with medication. If there is a pronounced form of mastopathy, due to the slightly increased risk of breast cancer, a close mammographic check of the breast should be carried out, especially if there are already cases of breast cancer in the family and the change occurs before the age of 40.

Burning in the nipple

If the burning sensation occurs mainly in the nipple, there may be a so-called mastitis, which is an inflammation of the female or less often the male mammary or mammary gland (Greek: "mastos"). In most cases, mastitis develops in breastfeeding women about two to four weeks after birth (mastitis puerperalis), but outside of the puerperium the inflammation is rather rare (mastitis non puerperalis).

If the mammary gland is inflamed, fever and severe pain in the area of ​​the nipple typically occur, which in most cases only occur on one side and are perceived as drawing, burning or in the form of stinging in the breast. As a result of the inflammation, this is usually red, swollen and overheated, although the symptoms of non-puerperal mastitis are usually less pronounced than those of puerperal mastitis.

In more severe cases, an abscess can form. If the inflammation is chronic, the development of so-called fistulas is possible, which means a tubular connection between a hollow organ and another organ or the body surface.

There are various causes for inflammation of the mammary gland, with the frequent puerperal mastitis being in most cases a bacterial infection with staphylococci or streptococci. These get into the body through small skin injuries (“fissures”) of the nipple, the path of the bacteria mostly from the nasopharynx of mother, father etc. into that of the baby and finally through breastfeeding into the nipple.

Inflammation of the mammary gland outside of breastfeeding can occur due to an infection with bacteria, but these often encounter an ideal nutrient medium in the form of secretions, which e.g. is overproduced by the overproduction of the hormone prolactin and accumulates in the milk channels. Non-puerperal mastitis can also occur in connection with another, usually chronic, disease. Examples are tuberculosis, syphilis or a fungal infection.

Prevention of breast inflammation

In order to prevent breast inflammation, a good breastfeeding technique is particularly useful, which women can learn from their midwife or special breastfeeding advice. It is important, among other things, that the nipples are thoroughly cleaned with water before feeding the child and that the mother and child take a comfortable position during breastfeeding. When drinking, the infant should not only put the nipple itself into the mouth, but also the border of the same color (nipple), so that the negative pressure necessary for the milk flow can develop between the mouth opening and the palate. If this is not the case, the nipple quickly becomes sore and cracked, so the baby should be loosened from the breast again and put on again.

In addition to this, the Professional Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (BVF) recommends that in order to avoid breast infection the baby should only drink a maximum of five minutes per breastfeeding meal in the first three days after birth. After this period of getting used to, however, the time could be extended to 10 to 15 minutes. It is important that the child does not fall asleep with the nipple in the mouth while breastfeeding, as this increases the risk of small tears, which in turn makes pathogens easier to get into the body. In addition, the nipples can be protected from the so-called "cracks" by allowing the woman to air-dry them as often as possible after breastfeeding.

Burning chest when coughing

Diseases of the lungs or of the pectoral and pulmonary fur can be considered as the cause of burning pain. The symptoms mostly depend on the breath, in addition there are in many cases other symptoms such as shortness of breath or cough.

If the burning sensation occurs when coughing, acute bronchitis can be the cause, which is one of the most common diseases of the respiratory tract. This is an inflammation of the bronchial mucous membranes, with the bronchi being the continuation of the trachea. The main symptoms are a strong, initially dry, "barking" or rattling cough, which is accompanied by burning, drawing pains in the chest.

As the disease progresses, the dry cough resolves, causing mucus to form in the airways, which can be coughed up as a so-called “expectoration” (“productive cough”). Other typical cold symptoms such as fatigue, headache, runny nose, sore throat or fever can occur.

In most cases, acute bronchitis is caused by viruses, but bacteria are rarely the trigger and usually only attack - if at all - an already weakened bronchial mucosa (secondary infection). In rare cases (e.g. in immunocompromised patients) the disease can be caused by a fungal infection of the respiratory tract, and other risk factors include irritating substances such as dust, gases or tobacco smoke.

If younger, healthy or generally immune-strong people develop bronchitis, this usually heals in about seven to ten days without further consequences. In other cases, especially in elderly and defenseless people, however, it can last much longer and lead to complications such as pneumonia, and there is also a risk that acute bronchitis will develop from the acute.

Triggers for the burning chest pain when coughing can also be causes such as pleurisy or pleurisy or respiratory and lung diseases such as bronchial asthma, pneumonia or lung cancer.

Cause pulmonary embolism

A pulmonary embolism is conceivable, which is a sudden occlusion of a pulmonary artery, which in most cases is caused by a blood clot that has washed in. Depending on the size of the clot and where the occlusion occurs, pulmonary embolism can cause very different symptoms and, in some cases, can even be asymptomatic. For example, sudden shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), chest pain that intensifies when inhaled, sweating, coughing up blood, feelings of oppression and fainting.

However, the symptoms are often volatile and ambiguous, because while sometimes only individual symptoms occur, other patients show a combination of several symptoms. If you suspect an embolism, you should always call an emergency doctor immediately, because this can quickly become life-threatening and must be treated immediately.

Burning in the left breast

A severe burning sensation on the left side behind the breastbone can be signs of a heart attack. It is typical in this case that the chest pain persists for several minutes and also in other areas of the body such as Radiate arms, upper abdomen or jaw.

The pain is usually accompanied by massive tightness in the heart or pressure on the chest. It is also possible that an infarction is noticeable only through unspecific symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, sweating, paleness of the face, shortness of breath and upper abdominal pain. Accordingly, the first call should always be made immediately to 112 at the first signs in order to recognize a heart attack in good time and to prevent life-threatening consequences such as ventricular fibrillation.

Symptoms similar to a heart attack can be caused by coronary artery disease (CHD), which is a circulatory disorder of the heart muscle that results from constricted coronary arteries. Characteristic symptoms of CHD include tightness in the chest (angina pectoris) as well as pain or a burning sensation behind the breastbone, which can radiate up to the arms, fingertips, shoulders, neck or teeth.

If there is an attack of angina pectoris, cold sweat and paleness of the face often occur, in many cases there is also shortness of breath, fear and reduced performance. Typically, the pain is triggered by physical or mental stress and usually only persists for a few minutes. If the stress ends, the complaints go back. If the CAD is already more advanced, it can also occur at rest.

Other possible reasons for burning in the left breast include pericarditis, pericarditis, valvular heart disease, high blood pressure or myocarditis (myocarditis). In about every second case, viruses are the trigger for the chronic inflammatory processes in the heart, and myocarditis is often preceded by a flu infection or diarrhea.

Burning chest after eating

The so-called heartburn is a common cause. This means a burning and painful feeling behind the breastbone rising from the upper abdomen, which often radiates up to the neck / throat area. In addition, there is usually an acid regurgitation and a strong feeling of pressure and fullness, sometimes there is stomach pressure, cramps and a lump in the throat.

A variety of triggers can be considered for the symptoms, and there is often a close connection with lifestyle and eating habits. Accordingly, the burning sensation in the chest often occurs after eating foods and beverages that stimulate gastric acid production, such as fatty, acidic or spicy foods, chocolate, peppermint-containing foods, fruit juices, cocoa, coffee, black tea and alcohol.

If you gulp too hastily while eating, you risk problems in forwarding the meal. Clothing that is too tight can have a negative effect on digestion by pushing the stomach contents upwards and finally triggering reflux.

There are also other risk factors such as stress and mental tension, harmful substances such as nicotine and obesity, which often cause stomach problems and heartburn.

During pregnancy, it often happens that there is a "burning sensation" behind the breastbone and that the food is "sour". The reason for this is the hormonal changes during this time, through which the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus is relaxed and gastric acid can flow back into the esophagus. The complaints are often exacerbated by the growing uterus, which presses more and more on the stomach and constricts it further and further.

Other possible triggers are certain medications (psychotropic drugs, etc.), gastric mucosal inflammation, food intolerance, irritable stomach or bulges of the esophagus wall (esophageal diverticulum). If the reflux occurs more frequently or regularly, this can be an indication of the so-called "gastroesophageal reflux disease" (GERD), which is triggered by a malfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter and is often accompanied by inflammation of the esophagus.

Other causes

A number of other, relatively “harmless” causes such as muscle soreness, nerve irritation (intercostal neuralgia) or muscle tension come into consideration for a burning sensation in the chest area, whereby the pain caused by this often increases or decreases with certain movements or postures. Vertebral blockages as well as a fracture or bruise of the ribs can cause a burning sensation in the chest, as well as in so-called cases the so-called "Tietze syndrome", which is characterized by pressure-sensitive swelling of the cartilage attachments in the area of ​​the sternum or ribs.

Not infrequently, the complaints hide psychological causes such as stress, anxiety, tension, conflicts, depression or a so-called cardiac neurosis. This is a hypochondriacal disorder characterized by panic-like fear of an undetected heart disease.

Treatment for burning in the chest area

The complaints can be both relatively "harmless" causes such as Have tension or nerve irritation, but also an indication of a serious or life-threatening disease of the lungs or heart such as a pulmonary embolism or a heart attack. As a precaution, a doctor should always be consulted or an emergency doctor should be called if there is a burning sensation in the chest area, especially if symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest tightness, nausea, paleness and / or sweating occur at the same time.

The treatment is carried out after the diagnosis by the doctor depending on the cause and can accordingly include very different measures and procedures. For example, if there is mild acute bronchitis, drug therapy is usually not required. Instead, care should be taken, among other things, to take care of the body and drink enough to support the recovery process.

Home remedies for coughing, such as tea from cowslips or inhalations with chamomile or salt, can be helpful. A hot bath is very beneficial - however, the patient should be free from fever. If the symptoms are more severe, pain relievers and expectorants or cough suppressants can be used as needed. If there is a bacterial infection, antibiotics are usually necessary.

If the burning pain could be a sign of breast inflammation (mastitis), you should also see a doctor as soon as possible, because only early treatment can prevent purulent abscesses from forming. If it is non-puerperal mastitis without abscess, depending on the cause, drugs can be used to inhibit prolactin production, antibiotics or anti-inflammatories.

If an encapsulated accumulation of pus has already formed, it is usually sliced ​​open and the pus removed. In some cases, an operation is e.g. necessary for chronic inflammation or a fistula. It is also important to cool the affected breast (e.g. with an ice pack or curd wrap) and a well-fitting, suitable bra. If there is another underlying disease such as tuberculosis or a fungal infection, treatment of this is of course essential.

Home remedies for heartburn

In heartburn, therapy is based on the cause and severity of the symptoms, so a doctor should always be consulted first to rule out more serious reasons for reflux.

In many cases, lighter ailments can be changed by changing certain eating habits by eating more consciously overall and avoiding some foods altogether. This applies, for example, to particularly fatty foods, hot spices, coffee, black tea, chocolate, cocoa, highly acidic citrus fruits, garlic or peppermint, since these foods stimulate the formation of stomach acid and reduce the tension of the sphincter between the esophagus and stomach .

Alcohol and nicotine should be avoided, as should very late, sumptuous eating so that the stomach can digest the meal before bed and the food can no longer flow back into the esophagus. If the reflux also occurs when lying down, it is often helpful to sleep with a slightly elevated upper body (through additional pillows or similar) to prevent the stomach acid from rising.

Various home remedies for heartburn have proven successful, such as oatmeal, potato juice or the slow chewing of nuts.

A so-called “roll cure” with chamomile can be effective. For this, a tea made from two teaspoons of real chamomile flowers and about 300 ml of water is brewed, which is left to steep for about five to ten minutes. Then a few sips of the tea are drunk and then lie on your back, after about five minutes another sip is taken and then turned to the right side. Then you first switch to the prone position and then to the left side, with the aim of moistening the stomach lining with as much chamomile tea as possible. (No)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Social Science Nina Reese, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


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  • Bernhard Uhl: Gynecology and Obstetrics compact, Thieme Verlag, 6th edition, 2017
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  • National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD): Tietze Syndrome (accessed: 04.09.2019), rarediseases

ICD codes for this disease: R07ICD codes are internationally valid encryption codes for medical diagnoses. You can find yourself e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.

Video: 7 Things to Try to Reduce Your Acid Reflux (January 2023).