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Chest Pain

What is chest pain?

Chest pain is characterized by an abnormal sensation that may be felt anywhere from your neck to your abdomen. Depending upon its cause, you may experience chest pain that is dull, sharp, stabbing, burning, or a tight, squeezing or crushing sensation.

What factors may make chest pain worse?

Certain factors may make chest pain worse: deep breathing; coughing; sneezing; movement of your chest or spine; bending or twisting your trunk; and pressing on a painful region of the heart.

What are other symptoms that often occur with chest pain?

In some instances, other symptoms may occur with chest pain. These include: chest bruising; back pain; arm pain; chest swelling or tenderness; wheezing; coughing or coughing up blood; difficulty breathing; faintness (syncope); loss of consciousness; neck pain; nausea; jaw pain, palpitations, and excessive sweating.

Is chest pain dangerous?

Chest pain may suggest you have a serious health problem, including a heart attack. If you experience a chest pain which you cannot explain, especially if it comes on suddenly, seek medical attention immediately. Call 911 or your local emergency service if you have any of these symptoms along with chest pain:

  • chest pain that spreads to your jaw, left arm, or back
  • a sudden sensation of tightness, pressure, crushing or squeezing under your breastbone
  • nausea, confusion, dizziness, ashen color, excessively rapid heart rate or rapid breathing and excessive sweating
  • sudden sharp chest pain with shortness of breath, especially following an extended period of inactivity
  • very low blood pressure or a very low heart rate

What causes chest pain?

There are many causes of chest pain, not all of which are related to heart problems. Other causes can be a problem with your esophagus, lungs, ribs, muscles or nerves; however, the most common heart-related causes are: heart failureangina, pericarditis, heart attack, mitral valve prolapse, and coronary artery dissection.

Why does angina cause chest pain?

When your heart blood vessels become blocked, the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle itself is reduced. This causes pain but no permanent damage to the heart. Your chest pain may spread to your arm, shoulder, jaw, or back. It may feel like a squeezing sensation or pressure. The chest pain of angina can be triggered by excitement, exercise, or emotional distress; these may be minimized or relieved by rest.

Why does a heart attack cause chest pain?

heart attack is the result of a reduction in the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. This causes the death of heart muscle cells. Though similar to angina chest pain, heart attack chest pain is usually a more severe, crushing pain and is not relieved by rest. Nausea, sweating or severe weakness may accompany the pain.

Why does pericarditis cause chest pain?

Pericarditis is an infection or inflammation of the sac around the heart and can cause pain similar to that caused by angina. However, it often causes a sharp, steady pain along the shoulder muscle and upper neck. Sometimes it gets worse when you swallow food, breathe, or lie on your back.

Why does heart failure cause chest pain?

Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle becomes thickened and cannot function properly. This forces the heart to work harder pumping blood. Along with chest pain, heart failure may cause light-headedness, dizziness, shortness of breath, and other symptoms.

Why does mitral valve prolapse cause chest pain?

When a valve in the heart fails to close properly, it is called mitral valve prolapse. A variety of symptoms in addition to chest pain have been associated with mitral valve prolapse, including palpitations and dizziness, though it can also occur without any discernible symptoms, especially if the prolapse is not severe.

Why does coronary heart disease cause chest pain?

On rare occasions, a tear can develop in the coronary artery. This dissection or tear causes a sudden severe pain with a ripping or tearing sensation that goes up into the back, neck or abdomen.

What factors increase your risk of chest pain?

Many factors can increase the odds of your experiencing chest pain. These include your being 50 years old or older, AIDS, cancer, a chest injury, diabetes, high cholesterol, emphysema, obesity, and asthma, a family history of heart disease, hypertension, and smoking.

How is chest pain treated?

Treatment for your chest pain varies, depending upon its underlying cause or causes.

Drugs are used to treat some of the most common causes of chest pain. Among these are artery relaxers such as nitroglycerin which enables blood to flow more easily through narrowed spaces. Some blood-pressure medicines also relax and widen blood vessels. Clot-busting drugs are engineered to dissolve a clot that blocks blood from reaching your heart muscle.

Blood thinners help prevent new clots from forming. Antacids reduce the amount of acid in your stomach which may be splashing up your esophagus, causing the pain. If you suffer from panic attacks, your doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety drugs to help control your symptoms, including chest pain.

In some situations, surgery and other procedures are used to treat the most dangerous causes of chest pain. These include  balloons and stents to eliminate blockage and reopen an artery; bypass surgery to create an alternative path for blood to circumvent a blocked artery; dissection repair to mend a ruptured artery;  and lung re-inflation to remedy a collapsed lung.

Is chest pain a common condition?

Chest pain accounts for 8 million patient visits in the US annually.

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