Chest pain can be caused by a heart attack or angina. Medical experts advise never to ignore any kind of chest pain. It can appear in various forms starting from a very subtle ache to a sharp stab in the chest. Chest pains can, at times, feel burning or crushing too. In some cases, the pain can travel up your neck, the jaw, and go back to one or both arms.
Chest pains are one of the most common reasons why people see a doctor and visit emergency rooms. Chest pain changes from one person to another, and it can vary further depending on its location, duration, intensity, and quality.
There are different causes of pain in the chest. The most dangerous and life-threatening are the ones that involve the patient’s lungs or chest area. Always seek immediate medical assistance when you experience chest pain.
Angina is also known as chest pain. It is characterized to be short-lived and happens each time the muscles of the heart have low blood supply where it needs to work much harder than the customary. Angina can occur where one is experiencing high emotion, performing strenuous exercise, after consuming a huge meal, or during a cold-weather season. This kind of pain often eases out with proper rest. Angina does not often lead to any irreparable damage to the heart. The pain is instead due to the reduced blood flow to the heart owning to the build-up of fatty deposits known as ‘atherosclerosis’ that often clog up the inner walls of coronary arteries. This is also widely known as coronary artery disease. Whenever the artery is blocked, a sudden heart attack can occur, and the muscles of the heart are damaged.
Chest Pain Causes and Risk Factors
There are a lot of causes and risk factors surrounding chest pain and its link to cardiovascular ailments. Here are a few:
- Obesity or being overweight
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Unhealthy eating habits
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- Heart disease family history
- Gender-related (Males are more susceptible than females
- Age (We are at higher risk as we grow old)
Remember that even those without the apparent risk factors may, later on, develop cardiovascular ailments.
Chest pain can be caused by several factors, and each of them needs urgent medical attention.
Here are some good examples of heart-related chest pain causes:
- Angina – Angina is the term used for chest pain that is a result of a very poor heart blood flow. This is a result of the build-up around the inner walls of the heart arteries that carry blood inside the heart. These, in turn, narrows down the arteries and precludes ample blood supply to the heart.
- Heart Attack – a Heart attack is often the result of a blockage in the blood flow to the heart. This is caused by a blood clot to the muscles of the heart.
- Pericarditis – Pericarditis occurs when there is the apparent inflammation of the sac that is found within the heart. It leads to a very sharp pain that can get worse whenever one lay down or breathe.
- Aortic Dissection – Aortic Dissection is a life-endangering medical condition where it involves the main artery that leads to the aorta of the heart. As the interior layer of the blood vessel part ways, blood is forced into the later and can lead to the aorta’s rupture or breaking down.
Chest Pain Due To Digestive Causes
There are chest pains that are often associated with the health disorders of the digestive system. It can include –
- Swallowing problems – problems in the esophagus can result in difficulty swallowing and can be very painful as well as a result of chest pains.
- Pancreas or gallbladder problems – the inflammation of the pancreas or one’s gallbladder can result in abdominal pain, this, in turn, results in chest pains.
- Heartburns – a burning sensation often experienced near or around the breastbone area, especially when the stomach acid is washed up from the stomach towards the tube linked to the throat towards the abdomen.
- Other gastrointestinal diseases or conditions can cause chest pains. It can include swallowing problems associated with the disorders of the esophagus, gallstones, heartburn, acid reflux, pancreas inflammation, and gallbladder inflammation, to name a few.
- Chest Pain Due To Bone/Muscle Causes
There are some kinds of chest pains that are highly linked with specific injuries and other health problems that impact the chest wall and other related structures such as –
- Injured ribs – broken or bruising around the rib area can lead to chest pains.
- Sore muscles – chest pains can also result from chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia, or as a result of persistent muscle connected pain in the chest area.
- Costochondritis – this pain in the chest area is caused by the ribs in the breastbone where the cartilage is injured, inflamed, and becomes painful.
Chest Pain Due To Lung Conditions
There are several lung conditions that can lead to pains around the chest area:
- Pulmonary Hypertension – a state in the lung when one has high blood pressure where the arteries carry blood to the lungs and result in chest pains.
- Pulmonary Embolism – a condition where the blood clot has clogged the arteries in the lungs, hence blocking any blood flow to the tissues of the lungs.
- Collapsed Lung – chest pain from a collapsed lung often starts sharply and can persist for hours, and is often linked with breath shortness. Collapsed lungs happen when the air passes through and leaks around the space on the ribs and lungs.
- Pleurisy – chest pain occurs when there is an inflammation of the membrane that covers the lungs. This can lead to pain in the chest that can worsen as you cough or inhale air.
Chest Pain and Other Causes
Chest pains can also be caused by any one of the following:
- Shingles – Shingles are a result of the reactivation of the virus from chickenpox. Shingle is a medical condition that can lead to pain and some blisters around the chest walls and the back.
- Panic Attacks – When you have episodes of intense fear that is coupled with a rapid heartbeat, chest pains, heavy breathing, nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness, fear of dying, and heavy sweating – this is known as panic attacks. Panic attacks can cause pain in the chest area.
Chest Pain Symptoms
Pain in the chest area can be caused by many various sensations, and it all depends on the symptoms triggering the pain. Mostly, the cause may not be associated with the heart, although there is no easy way to tell but by asking your physician.
Chest Pain Caused By The Heart
Chest pains may or may not be associated with heart ailments. Many who are suffering from heart disease complain that they experience very unclear discomfort that is not necessarily painful. Overall, chest pain or discomfort linked to a heart attack or other heart problem can be associated with any one of these, to wit –
1. Cold sweat
2. Breath shortness
7. Pressure on the chest area
8. Tightening of the chest area
9. Burning in the chest
10. The searing pain that radiates to your back area, shoulders, neck, jaw, and the arms
11. Chest pain that can last for a couple of minutes becomes worse with any activity, recurs, and differs in pain intensity.
Other Kinds of Chest Pains
It can be tricky to distinguish chest pains that are related to the heart from different kinds of chest pains one experience. But, the chest pain that is not due to a heart condition or ailment is sometimes due to one of the following:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Pain that gets worse or improves as you change the position of your body
- Sour taste that re enters the mouth
- Pain that can worsen as you cough
- Pain that worsens when you breathe hard or deep
- Pain that can persist for several hours
- Chest tenderness as you push on the chest area
If you experience heartburn, which is characterized by sharp pain and or burning sensation surrounding the breastbone area, then your chest pains can be caused by problems around your stomach and or heart area.
When Do You Have To See A Doctor?
Even though chest pains are deemed symptoms of a heart problem, there are, however, other causes for the condition. Many of them are not harmful. It is always a good move to consult your doctor if you experience sudden chest pains, particularly for those whose symptoms do not ease even after taking medication. Anyone who experiences chest pain, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or anything severe must visit the nearest hospital, or seek emergency medical assistance. Some symptoms that may be considered emergency are chest pain that radiates to the back, neck, jaw, or arms; sharp burning sensation in the breastbone area; accelerated heartbeat, rapid heavy breathing, and or confusion.
If you or someone you know have unexplained chest pain or where you suspect you have a heart attack, you should not delay and get emergency medical help as soon as possible.