If you are having chest pain, then this is something that you should not ignore.
However, knowing the causes of pain is important.
In most cases, it is related to your heart, however, it may also be due to lungs, esophagus, muscles, ribs, or even nerves.
For instance, some of these can be life-threatening, especially, heart and lung diseases.
However, others are not. If you have unexplained chest pain, then you should visit your doctor immediately so that they can evaluate the cause of the pain.
It is important to note that you can feel pain anywhere in your chest region.
It can be anywhere from your neck to your upper abdomen.
Depending on the cause, pain may be sharp, dull, burning, aching, stabbing, or a squeezing or crushing sensation.
Let’s learn more about it in detail.
Causes of Chest Pain
You might think you are having a heart attack when you feel chest pain.
While such pain is an established sign of a heart attack, it can be due to many other less serious conditions.
Moreover, about 13% of the emergency room, ER visits result in the diagnosis of a serious health-related condition according to the National Center for Health Studies.
Let’s discuss them in detail:
Heart-Related Causes of Chest Pain
The following are the heart-related causes:
Heart Attack: Which is the blockage of blood flow to the heart.
Angina: This is chest pain due to blockage in the blood vessels leading to your heart.
Pericarditis: Is an inflammation of the sac around the heart
Myocarditis: An inflammation of the heart muscle
Cardiomyopathy: Disease of your heart muscle
Aortic Dissection: A rare condition involving a tear of the aorta, the large vessel coming off the heart.
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Gastrointestinal Causes of Chest Pain
The following are the gastrointestinal causes:
Acid Reflux or Heartburn: It occurs when the contents of your stomach move back into the throat.
This may cause a sour taste in your mouth, and a burning sensation in the chest or throat, heartburn.
Swallowing problems: These are related to disorders of your esophagus
Gallstones: After eating a fatty meal, you might have sensations of fullness or pain right at the lower chest area or the right upper side of your abdomen.
It may be due to gallbladder problems or bladder stones.
Hiatal Hernia: It occurs when the top of the stomach pushes into the lower chest after eating.
This is often due to reflux symptoms, including heartburn or chest pain.
Inflammation of the gallbladder or pancreas.
Peptic Ulcers: This may be due to painful sores in the lining of your stomach, or the first lining of the small intestine.
It is common in individuals who smoke, drink alcohol, or take pain killers like aspirin.
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Lung-Related Causes of Chest Pain
The lung-related causes are as follows:
Pneumonia: This lung infection cause pleuritic and other types of chest pain like deep chest aches.
It often comes suddenly causing fever, chills, cough, and pus coughed up from the respiratory tract.
Viral Bronchitis: It is the inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, that carry air to and from the lungs.
Pneumothorax: Often due to an injury to the chest, pneumothorax happens when a part of your lung collapses
Thus releasing air into the chest cavity.
A Blood Clot or Pulmonary Embolus: If the blood clot travels through the bloodstream and lodges into the lungs it causes pulmonary embolism.
Bronchospasm: This commonly occurs in individuals who suffer from asthma and related disorders like chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, COPD.
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Muscle or Bone-related Causes of Chest Pain
Muscle or bone-related causes are as follows:
Bruised or broken rib: Pain from your broken rib can worsen or an injury to the chest area from a fall or accident.
It is important to note that it is often confined to one area and may feel sore when you press on it.
Sore muscles from exertion or chronic pain syndromes: Really hard coughing can injure or inflame the muscles and tendons between the ribs and chest.
Compression fractures: They cause pressure on a nerve
Other Causes: Shingles can also cause it.
You may develop it along your back or chest before the shingles rash becomes apparent.
Moreover, panic attacks can also cause it.
Symptoms with Chest Pain
You may experience other symptoms that occur with chest pain.
Thus, identifying signs and symptoms can help your doctor to make a timely diagnosis.
These are as follows:
Heart-Related Symptoms: While it is the most common symptom of heart-related conditions, some people might have it without such pain.
Women, in particular, have unusual symptoms that are later identified as being the result of a heart condition like:
Chest pressure or tightness, back, jaw, or arm pain, fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness, or shortness of breath.
Abdominal pain, nausea, or pain during exertion are also symptoms of it.
Symptoms that may indicate chest pain that is not related to your heart are as follows:
A sore or acidic taste in your mouth, pain that occurs only when you are swallowing or fever.
Difficulty swallowing, pain that is better or worse depending on your position, and pain that may worsen when you breathe deeply.
Aches, chills, runny nose, cough, feelings of panic or anxiety, hyperventilating and back pain that radiates to the front of your chest.
These are some other signs and symptoms you should also keep in mind.
Visiting a Doctor
It is always best to consult your doctor if you experience this pain suddenly, especially if you are taking anti-inflammatory medications that do not ease the symptoms.
Anyone who can experience it and has difficulty breathing should visit the hospital or call the emergency number 911 or 988.
Symptoms that need emergency help are as follows:
A crushing pain on the breastbone, pain that spreads to the jaw, left arm, or back.
Confusion, an accelerating heartbeat, or rapid breathing also need medical attention.
It is important to note that even when the chest pain feels severe, a heart attack is not the likely cause.
However, more than 1 million individuals have heart attacks every year in the U.S.
Thus, it is essential to seek medical attention if you are unsure about the signs and symptoms you are experiencing.
Diagnosis of Chest Pain
If you think you are having a heart attack, hen you should immediately seek emergency treatment.
This is especially important when the pain is new, unexplained, or lasts for more than a few minutes.
Moreover, your doctor will ask some related questions and your answers will help them to diagnose the cause of your chest pain.
It is important to discuss the related symptoms and share info about the medications, treatments, or other medical conditions.
Your doctor will also order some tests to help diagnose or eliminate any heart-related problems that may be causing chest pain.
An Electrocardiogram: An ECG or EKG records your heart’s electrical activity.
Blood Tests: Measures enzyme levels.
Chest X-ray: Helps to examine your heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
Echocardiogram: This test uses sound waves to record moving images of the heart.
An MRI: Looks for damage to the heart or aorta
Stress Tests: Helps to measure the function of your heart after exertion
Angiogram: Looks for blockages in specific activities.
In most cases, your doctor will treat your chest pain with the help of medications, non-invasive procedures, surgery, or a combination of these methods.
Moreover, the treatment depends on the cause and severity of your chest pain.
In case, the chest pain is due to heart-related conditions, the treatment includes:
- medications like nitroglycerin and others that open partially closed arteries, clot-busting drugs, or blood thinners,
- cardiac catheterization that involves using balloons or stents to open the blockage in the arteries.
- surgical repair of the arteries also termed coronary artery bypass or bypass surgery
For other causes of chest pain, the treatment includes:
Lung Re-inflation for a collapsed lung, which your doctor will perform by inserting a chest tube or a related device.
Antacids, or certain procedures that will help with acid reflux and heartburn, to help treat the symptoms.
Anti-Anxiety medications, to help treat chest pain related to panic attacks.
If your chest pain is due to common conditions, your doctor can help treat it and resolve the chest pain.
These include acid reflux, anxiety attacks, and asthma or related disorders. However, if chest pain is a symptom of a life-threatening condition like heart or lung-related diseases, then you either may be experiencing a heart attack or other issues due to lung diseases.
Seek immediate medical attention if you think you are experiencing a heart attack, as prompt action can save your life. After your doctor makes a diagnosis, they will recommend additional treatment to help manage your condition.