DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have been a runner for more than 30 years, and I run long distances. I am 49. I have noticed, in the past few months, left-sided chest pain – more pronounced when I run, but there at other times too. I insisted on seeing a cardiologist, who did an EKG, a stress test and an echocardiogram. All were normal, but the echocardiogram showed a prolapsing mitral valve. The cardiologist says the pain is not from my heart and that I can continue my running. Do you think it’s safe for me? How about the mitral valve prolapse? – T.P.

ANSWER:
Mitral valve prolapse is generally not a serious condition. The mitral valve regulates blood flow from the upper left heart chamber – the left atrium – to the lower left heart chamber – the left ventricle. A prolapsing mitral valve is one that balloons upward into the left atrium when the heart pumps blood. If no blood leaks through the ballooning valve, then you have no worry.

You have had an electrocardiogram and a stress test; both are normal. You are not at risk for a heart attack with such evidence in your favor. You should put the heart issue to rest.

Left-sided chest pain doesn’t come only from the heart. It can come from the lungs or the lung coverings, the pleura. You have no symptoms, aside from the pain, that implicate either. The heart doctor didn’t detect any lung-related condition. The pain could also come from an upward surge of stomach acid into the esophagus. Heartburn is only one kind of pain that acid reflux, as the condition is called, leads to. You might try an antacid to see if it quiets the pain.

Perhaps the most common cause of chest pain is the chest muscles. I don’t want you to see another doctor now. You’ve been through enough tests and have spent enough money. For the present, keep on with your exercise and try to ignore the chest pain. If you want to take a mild pain reliever like Tylenol, that is acceptable.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My daughter is 26. She has a bunch of bumps on her arms that she says are calcium deposits.

Are such calcium deposits indicative of calcium in arteries? I am most concerned about this, but she seems completely detached from it all. – V.L.

ANSWER:
What makes your daughter think her bumps are calcium deposits? Unless a doctor has biopsied one or removed calcium from one with a syringe, I don’t believe that’s what they are. I don’t know what they are, but neither does she. She can find out only by seeing a doctor.

Just for the sake of your concern, let me say that calcium in skin lumps has no relationship to calcium in arteries.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com


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