Chest pain

Medical quality assurance by Dr. Albrecht Nonnenmacher, MD at December 10, 2015
StartSymptomsChest pain

Chest pain is a common condition that is experienced by many people. It can signal a host of medical problems, and for this reason consultation with a medical professional is advisable if it occurs.

Contents

Definition & Facts

Chest pain wears many different disguises, and it can cause effects that exist on a spectrum spanning from a constant aching to stabbing, shooting agony. In certain situations it can cause a burning sensation, but in other cases causes the feeling of overwhelming pressure. Many times it will not remain localized, but can travel into other regions of the body including the arm, jaw, neck, and the back.

It is worth noting that many different conditions will cause chest pain. The cause could be as innocuous as heartburn or as serious as a cardiac infarction. Even experienced medical professionals can find it difficult to quickly diagnose the source of the chest pain, so laypersons should definitely seek medical attention if any of the following symptoms are noticed.

Causes

Heart related Chest pain:

Heart valve disease] - The various chambers of the human heart are connected by special valves that open and close in order to regulate the direction of blood flow. The timing of these motions is critical, valve disease can cause these laps to malfunction in various ways. When this happens, and is often the result.

Aortic dissection - This occurs when the main artery of the heart - the aorta - is torn or damaged in some way. This situation can be caused by many factors, chronic high blood pressure is often the culprit.

Myocarditis and pericarditis - Swelling and irritation of the heart is known as myocarditis. The swelling of the outer covering is known as pericarditis comp. Both of these conditions are well known to cause chest pain.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy - also known as HCM, this condition occurs when part of the heart becomes abnormally thick. This causes the heart to have to work harder to pump blood, and over time this situation can cause chest pain.

Lung related Chest Pain:

Pulmonary hypertension - When blood pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs is abnormally high, pulmonary hypertension is often behind it. This condition can cause difficulty breathing as well as chest pain.

Pulmonary embolism - A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot within the lungs. This is a very serious condition and is often accompanied by chest pain and difficulty breathing. For this reason, if chest pain and breathing difficulties occur simultaneously, medical professionals should be called at once.

Pleural effusion - A pleural effusion is a buildup of fluid around the lungs, and this can cause a gradual increase of pressure which can eventually produce chest pain.

Pleurisy - The Pleura is an outer covering of lungs, and is composed of two separate layers. One layer immediately surrounds the lungs, and the other lines the chest wall. If the two layers become inflamed, increased friction between them can cause severe chest pain.

Lung cancer - Lung cancer occurs when a tumor forms in the lung. Symptoms often include weight loss, coughing blood, breathing difficulty, and chest pain.

Digestion related Chest Pain:

The esophagus and the heart are located quite close to each other in the chest cavity. The two share many of the same nerves, and because of this many issues affecting the esophagus can masquerade as heart issues.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease - this is also known as heartburn, and is known to cause intense chest pain. When it occurs, the lower esophageal sphincter allows acid from the stomach to seep back into the esophagus and cause damage. The pain has been described as burning and squeezing, and may be located toward the center of the chest.

Musculo-Skeletal Causes:

The physical structure of the chest can also cause chest pain. Some examples of this are:

Costochondritis - This occurs when the cartilage that joins the breast bone to the ribs becomes inflamed.

Muscle soreness - Certain conditions that cause chronic muscle dysfunction will produce muscle related pain in the chest.

Rib injuries - Broken or bruised ribs will cause severe chest pain.

When to see a doctor

As has been noted, there are a huge number of possible conditions and diseases that can cause various types of chest pain. Modern medical facilities have advanced equipment that can quickly identify the source of the chest pain, and then determine whether or not it is life threatening. For this reason, whenever unexpected or severe chest pain or breathing problems occur, individuals are urged to seek medical help immediately.

Treatment & Therapy

The treatment regimen for chest pain will often begin with a trip to the hospital. At that point, will be closely examined and questioned by a doctor. The physician will likely ask questions that include:

  • when did the symptoms begin?
  • using words, how could the pain be described?
  • is the pain radiating through any other parts of the body?
  • are there any other symptoms such as difficulty breathing, dizziness, or nausea?
  • is there any history of high blood pressure?

Once this initial consultation has taken place, more thorough and detailed tests will usually begin. These can include things such as electrocardiograms, blood tests, chest X-rays, a CT scans. In addition to this, follow up testing may be necessary. These often involve echocardiograms, stress tests, and angiograms.

Depending on the results of the various tests, one or more treatment regimens will be put into action. Some common methods include:

Aspirin - This is usually prescribed for heart related chest pains.

Artery relaxers - these include nitroglycerin, and have the effect of relaxing coronary arteries. This allows blood to flow more freely, and thus relieves chest pain.

Clot-busters - If a heart attack caused by a blood clot is suspected, these medications accidents all the clot and relieved symptoms.

Acid suppressants - If stomach acids are causing pain in the esophagus, this class of medications will usually be prescribed.

Surgical Interventions:

Bypass surgery - This involves removing a blood vessel from one area of the body and using it to route blood-flow around a blocked artery.

Dissection repair - This is emergency surgery for the purpose of repairing an aortic tear.

Balloons and Stents - These are narrow tubes that doctors place into blood vessels in order to prevent blockages.

Prevention & Prophylaxis

When it comes to chest pain, prevention is definitely preferred over a cure. Since so many different factors can cause chest pain, one of the best defenses remains maintaining a reasonable level of fitness and good health.

This would include regular cardiovascular and strength training workouts, as regular visits to the doctor for examinations. Just as importantly, healthy habits such as eating a balanced diet will go far in terms of preventing many conditions from occurring in the first place.

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