Chest Pain – Common Symptoms of Serious Medical Conditions

By: Dzhingarov

Chest pain is a commonly experienced symptom that can be caused by many different things. Unfortunately, chest pain could also be indicative of an underlying medical issue.

If you or someone close to you is suffering from chest pain, it’s essential to understand what may be causing the discomfort and how it should be managed.

Causes

Chest pain is a potentially life-threatening symptom that may indicate an underlying medical issue. While many people associate chest pain with heart disease, it can actually be caused by many different conditions and illnesses.

Chest pain is most often due to a heart attack, though other potential causes include clots in the lungs, issues with an aneurysm (bulging artery), and stomach ulcers. Other potential issues that could cause chest discomfort include heartburn, rib pain, shingles (herpes zoster), as well as panic attacks.

Chest pain may feel like pressure, tightness, squeezing, heaviness, burning or ripping sensation in the arm, shoulder, jaw or back.

Other common chest pain symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, a sensation of pressure in the throat and dizziness. These signs can occur at any age and indicate an underlying medical issue.

Aortic dissection, the tear or dissection of the large blood vessel carrying oxygen-rich blood from the heart to other parts of the body, can cause sudden and intense chest and upper back pain. Furthermore, swelling in the sac surrounding the heart (pericarditis) causes stabbing pains in the center of your chest that get worse with each breath.

Another common cause of chest pain is pleurisy, a condition in which the lining of your lungs becomes inflamed. This can occur when you have a cold, viral infection or after surgery.

Psychological disorders such as anxiety or panic attacks may cause chest pain that is accompanied by a sense of doom and tightness in the chest. While these problems are usually not dangerous, it’s important to seek medical assistance if they are causing chest pain that lasts more than 15 minutes or occurs without known cause.

In general, the longer it takes for a doctor to diagnose an underlying cause of chest pain, the higher the likelihood that you have a potentially life-threatening condition. Therefore, call for help if you’re feeling chest tightness, shortness of breath or other potentially hazardous symptoms along with your discomfort.

Symptoms

Chest pain is a common symptom that can indicate various health issues. It may feel like pressure or fullness in the chest area and be accompanied by shortness of breath, nausea or cold sweats.

Chest pain is typically due to a problem in the heart or lungs, though other conditions can also cause it. Angina (chest pain) occurs when your heart doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood flow due to high blood pressure, issues with heart valves or thyroid disease.

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Angina can be made worse when exercising or doing heavy lifting, but it can also occur on its own. Angina could also be indicative of a heart attack or lung infection such as pneumonia or pleuritis (inflammation of the lining of your lungs).

If your chest pain persists for more than 5 minutes or disappears and returns again, contact 911 right away to have it evaluated. The emergency room can also provide medication to relieve your symptoms.

Another type of pain in the digestive system can be due to conditions like acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcers or gastritis. This discomfort usually worsens after eating certain meals or spicy foods or while lying down.

Anxiety or fear can often manifest as chest pain, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath and other symptoms. Panic attacks are a type of panic disorder.

Chest pain may be due to lung-related causes such as pneumonia or bronchospasm, and respiratory diseases. These can cause sharp, stabbing pain in the chest area that radiates down the neck, into the jaw area, and sometimes into one or both arms.

In addition to these potentially life-threatening conditions, there are other non-cardiac reasons for chest pain that necessitate medical treatment. While most of these causes aren’t serious, it’s essential to know what signs to look out for so you can visit your doctor promptly.

Diagnosis

Chest pain is a common symptom that can be caused by various conditions, from muscle strain to heart attacks. Therefore, it’s essential to take it seriously even if the discomfort doesn’t appear life-threatening.

If your chest pain lasts more than a few moments and doesn’t seem to improve, contact 911 or emergency medical services right away. Don’t wait out on help just in case it isn’t a heart attack; take action now for your own wellbeing.

Your healthcare provider can assist in pinpointing what’s causing the discomfort. They’ll ask you about all symptoms, their source, when they began and any factors that make the discomfort better or worse.

They may also conduct testing to make sure there’s nothing wrong with your heart or lungs. These include stress tests, which record how your heart and blood vessels respond to exertion. You might be asked to walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike while connected to an ECG machine, or drugs may be administered intravenously to stimulate your heart in a similar fashion to exercising.

Chest pain may also be due to high blood pressure in your pulmonary arteries, known as pulmonary hypertension. This makes it difficult for your heart to push blood through narrow arteries that transport it to your lungs.

Breathing becomes difficult in these conditions, leading to shortness of breath or wheezing. Furthermore, you may experience excessive sweating, nausea and the fear that you’ll pass away.

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If your chest pains are severe and don’t go away with rest, you could have angina. Angina is a medical condition that causes sudden, intense pressure in your upper chest area. It can occur while at rest or after physical activity such as exercising or driving.

Other possible causes of chest pain include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which causes your stomach to sour, and esophageal problems like achalasia or spasms.

GORD (gastrectomy-related dysplasia) is the leading cause of noncardiac chest pain, accounting for half to 60% of cases. Esophageal spasms and abnormal contractions of your lower esophageal sphincter may also produce similar sensations.

Treatment

Chest pain is a common sign that may indicate an emergency condition such as a heart attack or blood clot in the lungs (pulmonary embolism). However, it could also indicate a less serious health issue.

Doctors diagnose chest pain by reviewing the patient’s history and performing a physical examination. During this step, they’ll take into account what caused the discomfort, then ask questions to determine which treatment option is most suitable.

At first, medical professionals seek to differentiate between cardiac and non-cardiac causes of chest pain. Furthermore, they will use tests such as electrocardiograms (EKGs) and chest X-rays for a better insight into the condition.

Chest pain may be the result of a blockage in an artery, and your doctor can attempt to open it with medication. Common medications for this purpose include aspirin and thrombolytics – drugs which dissolve clots blocking arteries.

Another treatment option is a catheter with a balloon at the end, which can be threaded up to the blockage and expanded to widen the artery. This procedure typically takes place in a hospital setting without surgery required.

Acid reflux, also referred to as indigestion or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can cause sudden chest pain that can be relieved with diet changes and taking antacids. It’s a common issue, and there are several over-the-counter antacids available to treat it.

Chest pain can also be caused by other problems related to the lungs, such as pneumonia, pleurisy and pneumothorax. These conditions cause inflammation in the tissues surrounding the lungs and may intensify chest discomfort when you breathe deeply.

Pericarditis, an inflammation of the pericardium, can cause chest pain that’s often quite intense. Usually, this condition will resolve on its own; however, in some cases medication or surgery may be needed to help alleviate symptoms.

Muscle strain, which is often the result of heavy lifting or exercising, can also cause chest pain. If the pain is sharp and lasts more than a few minutes, it could be indicative of a muscle injury.