What are the Symptoms of Costochondritis?

Erin J. Hill

The primary symptoms of costochondritis are pain and tenderness in the chest. Sometimes pain will radiate from the chest to the arms or shoulders. Similar conditions may cause additional symptoms, such as redness and swelling. Pain is generally localized on one side of the body, although both sides are occasionally affected. Young females are often affected by costochondritis, but it can occur in both men and women.

Costochondritis is inflammation of the cartilage between the ribs and the breastbone.
Costochondritis is inflammation of the cartilage between the ribs and the breastbone.

Costochondritis is the leading cause of chest pain in young adults and adolescents, but is most common in adults aged between 20 and 40. Sometimes pain is accompanied by swelling and tenderness. When this occurs, it is know as Tietz syndrome. The causes of Tietz syndrome are not well-understood, but some research shows that trauma to the chest or viral illnesses may play a role. This is considered a similar, but separate condition because the symptoms of costochondritis are less varied and often less severe.

Costochondritis causes chest pain.
Costochondritis causes chest pain.

In some cases the symptoms of costochondritis can be present along with separate ailments like bowel disease or arthritis. Treatments may vary. Medications may be used to treat any related conditions or to help alleviate pain. Most of the time costochondritis will clear up on its own without any additional complications. When occurring in children and adolescents, it generally not does recur and disappears as the patient gets older.

Patients who suffer from fibromyalgia may be at an increased risk for costochondritis.
Patients who suffer from fibromyalgia may be at an increased risk for costochondritis.

Rarely, symptoms of costochondritis may be indicative of another health condition. Chest pain and swelling are often benign, but they be signs of heart disease, cancer, and certain lung conditions. Patients who are experiencing swelling or pain in the chest area should consult with a physician to rule out serious ailments. Bacterial and fungal infections are rare causes of costochondritis. Those who use recreational drugs may introduce bacteria into the chest wall, leading to this condition. Patients who suffer from fibromyalgia may also be at an increased risk.

Although rare, costochondritis may be indicative of another health condition, such as heart disease or certain lung conditions.
Although rare, costochondritis may be indicative of another health condition, such as heart disease or certain lung conditions.

Pain related to this condition may be mild to severe, with discomfort usually decreasing over time. Those who experience prolonged symptoms may have another condition as well. Costochondritis may be misdiagnosed as arthritis since the symptoms are very similar.

Costochondritis may cause shoulder pain.
Costochondritis may cause shoulder pain.

There are no real preventative measures which can be taken to avoid costochondritis. Avoiding injury to the chest region as well as viral illnesses may help, but these are not the only causes. Most cases of costochondritis have no known cause, and therefore, no method to completely prevent them.

Pain and tenderness in the chest are the most common symptoms of costochondritis.
Pain and tenderness in the chest are the most common symptoms of costochondritis.
Pain associated with costochondritis may lead to sleep difficulties for the patient.
Pain associated with costochondritis may lead to sleep difficulties for the patient.

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