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Getting pain in wrist and shortness of breath. Have high BP. What is causing this?

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 2001
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4 weeks ago, when I was under quite a lot of stress, I suddenly started waking up in the middle of night, gasping for breath, feeling as if I was going to have a heart attack or die. During the day I felt (and still feel, although not every day) sudden throbbing pains in the middle of my wrists (they last only a few seconds and I won't be doing anything such as writing or using a keyboard; very often I'll just be walking or resting and the pains come and go). I've been to a cardialogist a few months ago and the doctor said all was normal. I'm a 52-year old woman, healthy, apart from a bit of high blood pressure (am on co-diovan 80mg 1/day). What could be the cause of these pains in the wrists and the shortness of breath and heart pounding at night and occasionally also a feeling of throat muscles tightening (had thyroid checked and it's fine)? Thanks in advance for your answer.
Posted Sat, 8 Dec 2012 in Heart Rate and Rhythm Disorders
Answered by Dr. Michelle Gibson James 3 hours later
Hi, thanks for using health care magic

Since a cardiac cause was already investigated and ruled out by your cardiologist then the other possibilities must be considered.
These would include obstructive sleep apnoea which is associated with blockage of the airway during sleep resulting in the person waking to take a breath.It is usually associated with daytime sleepiness and a history of snoring.It is identified/diagnosed by a sleep study.
The other possibility is anxiety, you mentioned that the symptoms started at a time of alot of stress.You also indicated that you have a previous history of anxiety.According the american academy of sleep medicine persons with a history of anxiety are 3 times more likely to have sleep disturbances with stressful events.
Anxiety can be associated with symptoms such a rapid heart beat, shortness of breath and pain, the symptoms, the symptoms can occur in the late stage of sleep.
They would respond to the appropriate use of anxiolytic medications.

In terms of throbbing in the wrist it may or may not be directly related to the other symptoms.
Some causes of throbbing discomfort at the wrist would be arthritis (usually associated with pain, swelling and stiffness), tingling in index ring and middle finger).
In terms of the wrist, it may be good idea, if possible, to visit a orthopedic surgeon for an assessment.

I hope this information is helpful to you, feel free to ask any other questions
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Getting pain in wrist and shortness of breath. Have high BP. What is causing this? 31 minutes later
Thank you for your answer, Dr James!

Should it be confirmed that it is an anxiety situation, could you kindly give me your opinion on (although naturally I'd need to get a doctor's prescription) some mild sedatives or some medication that has fewer side effects than most benzodiazepines (that's what I took the last time the doctor prescribed meds for my anxiety)?

Thanks, again.

Answered by Dr. Michelle Gibson James 3 hours later

Yes, it should be confirmed as anxiety, there are certain criteria that would have to be fulfilled.This is is usually done by questions that your doctor can ask you.
In terms of medication, though benzodiazepines are commonly used for by some doctors for anxiety, they are not first line choice (because of tolerance , drowsiness and other side effects).These days the first line medication for anxiety are the SSRI family of medication. These are chosen because they tend to work better and faster with no tolerance.Examples would be zoloft, prozac,paxil,lexapro.
The benzo are often combined with the SSRI in the early stages because the SSRI take about 2 to 3 weeks before an effect is seen.

Hope this answers your questions, feel free to ask any additional questions
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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