When chest pain hits, it can be frightening. Whether the pain is tight, achy, or sharp, if you’re experiencing it, you will be wondering, “Why does my chest hurt?” and your mind may race to worst-case scenarios. So, what causes chest pain? There are several possible causes of chest pain, and not all of them have to do with your heart. However, chest pain is never something to ignore; seeing a doctor right away is imperative. Only after a thorough examination can you be certain of the cause of the pain in your chest.
What is Chest Pain?
Chest pain can occur in any area of your chest. It can be sharp or dull and can spread to other areas, like the arms, neck, or jaw. Chest pain can cause tightness, achiness, or a crushing, squeezing feeling, and it can last for a few minutes or several hours. In fact, chest pain can sometimes last for six months or longer. Sometimes, chest pain is accompanied by other symptoms, like shortness of breath, cold sweats, dizziness, light-headedness, weakness, racing heartbeat, nausea or vomiting, a sour taste in the mouth, or trouble swallowing. Some chest pain gets worse when you breathe deeply or cough, or changes when you shift your body position. Some chest pain involves tenderness when the chest is depressed.
Chest Pain Has Many Possible Causes That Require Medical Care.
Many of these are related to the heart or lungs, though some have to do with the muscular or digestive system.
- Heart-related causes of chest pain include:
- Angina: caused by poor blood flow to the heart, often because of plaques that build up on the inner walls of the arteries, restricting the blood supply.
- Heart attack: the result of blocked blood flow to the heart muscle, often from a blood clot.
- Aortic dissection: involves the inner layers of the main artery leading from the heart separating and causing the artery (aorta) to rupture.
- Pericarditis: inflammation of the sac around the heart that causes sharp pain, including worsening chest pain when lying down or chest pain when breathing deeply.
- Lung-related causes of chest pain include:
- Pulmonary embolism: blood flow is blocked by a blood clot that gets stuck in a lung artery.
- Pleurisy: inflammation of the membrane covering the lungs, causing chest pain that worsens when you cough or breathe deeply.
- Collapsed lung: caused by air leaking into the space between the lung and the rubs a collapsed lung causes sudden chest pain that can last for hours, accompanied by shortness of breath.
- Pulmonary hypertension: high blood pressure in the lung arteries.
- Causes of chest pain related to muscles and bones include:
- Costochondritis: painful inflammation of the cartilage of the rib cage, especially the cartilage that connects the ribs to the breastbone.
- Sore muscles: long-term pain in the chest muscles can be caused by chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia. Sometimes, noticing that pain worsens with activity is how to tell if chest pain is muscular.
- Injured ribs: bruised and broken ribs can cause chest pain.
- Digestive issues that cause chest pain include:
- Heartburn: This pain in the middle of the chest, behind the breastbone, happens when stomach acid comes up from the stomach into the esophagus.
- Swallowing disorders: chest pain with difficulty swallowing could be a problem with the esophagus.
- Gallbladder or pancreas problems: inflammation of the pancreas or gallbladder and gallstones can cause stomach pain that radiates to the chest.
There Are Additional Potential Causes of Chest Pain That May Not Be as Serious.
Sometimes a panic attack can cause chest pain, along with rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, and a fear of dying. Chest pain can also be caused by shingles, which can also cause a band of blisters from the back to the chest. No matter what kind of chest pain you think you are experiencing, it is important to get checked out by a doctor, to rule out serious conditions.
When Diagnosing the Cause of Chest Pain, There Are Certain Tests A Healthcare Provider May Order.
Some are ordered as soon as possible, while others may be ordered as a follow-up if the doctors have further concerns.
- Immediate tests include:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): This is a quick test that measures the heart’s electrical activity. Using sticky patches placed on the chest and connected by wire to a computer, this test can show if the heart is beating too quickly or too slowly.
- Blood tests: In the case of a heart attack, certain proteins leak into the blood. Blood tests can be done to check for these proteins and rule out a heart attack.
- Chest X-rays: A chest X-ray can allow the doctor to determine the condition of the lungs, the size and shape of the heart and major blood vessels, and lung problems like pneumonia or a collapsed lung.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan: This scan can be used to find an aortic dissection or spot a blood clot in the lung. Follow-up CT scans may also be ordered, to check the heart arteries for blockages.
- Follow-up tests include:
- Echocardiogram: Using sound waves, this test creates videos of the heart’s movements.
- Stress tests: These tests typically involve exercising while the heart rhythm is watched. For people who cannot exercise, medicines can be given to simulate exercise.
- Coronary catheterization: A long, flexible tube is inserted into a blood vessel and guided to the heart, to look for blockages, using dye flowing through the tube into the arteries to help them show up more clearly.
Why Choose Complete Cardiology Care?
Your heart is the life source of your body, and when you need help protecting and maintaining the health of your heart, Complete Cardiology Care is here for you. In our Sugar Land, Texas office, you will find an experienced cardiologist and nurse practitioner dedicated to helping patients find solutions to any cardiac issues they may be facing. Our practice lives up to its name by offering a complete list of cardiology services, delivered by our team of medical professionals whose careers are focused on helping people improve their heart health. Using advanced technology and state-of-the-art equipment, we offer comprehensive healthcare for conditions including heart disease, coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease, varicose veins, heart rhythm disorders, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. When you need a cardiologist who will provide you with personalized treatment and advanced cardiac care, trust Dr. Sonbol and the experienced, highly trained team at Complete Cardiology Care. Call us at 281-617-2483 or schedule an appointment through our website.