Chest Pain

Emergency rooms of hospitals receive patients complaining of chest pain very often. If you feel any kind of pain in your chest, then you must seek medical care immediately because it is likely to save your life. Even though the obvious worry that you would have when having chest pain would be regarding a heart attack, it might be caused by a number of other reasons. Some of these reasons are not that serious while others can be really life-threatening.

Causes of Chest Pain

  • ŸHeart-related causes. Heart attack, angina, aortic dissection and pericarditis are among the heart-related causes for chest pain, which can be very serious.
  • ŸDigestive causes.Heartburn, swallowing disorders and problems of the pancreas or gallbladder can also result in chest pain.
  • ŸMuscle and bone causes. Injuries or problems that target the bones and muscles that form the chest wall can also be reasons for experiencing chest pain. These include costochondritis, sore muscles and broken ribs.
  • ŸLung-related causes. Many lung disorders can cause chest pain, including lung disorders like pulmonary embolism, pleurisy, collapsed lungs and pulmonary hypertension.
  • ŸOther causes. Panic attacks and shingles are also among the reasons that might cause chest pain.

Symptoms that Accompany With Chest Pain

Sharp pain in chest is sometimes accompanied by some signs and symptoms that can help the doctor in diagnosing the cause of the pain.

1. Heart-Related Symptoms

Although the most obvious and clear-cut sign of a heart problem is pain in the chest, it is not uncommon for you to experience contrasting symptoms that might not include chest pain. For instance, women suffering from a heart condition usually encounter a different set of symptoms that are typically unrelated to heart diseases. The other heart-related symptoms include:

  • Pressure or tightness in chest
  • Pain in the jaw, back or arm
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Vomiting or pain in the abdomen
  • Pain that follows physical activity

2. Other Symptoms

The following are some of the symptoms that might suggest that the chest pain you are having is not because of a heart condition.

  • Unpleasant or astringent taste in your mouth
  • Difficulty in swallowing or feeling pain after eating something
  • Pain intensity varies with changes in your body positioning
  • Pain that worsens when you cough or take in a deep breath
  • Tenderness when pressure is applied on chest
  • Pain that is followed by a rash
  • Cough, fever, runny nose, aches or chills
  • Feeling anxious or panicked
  • Hyperventilating
  • Radiating pain in the back that reaches the front part of the chest

Test for Chest Pain

In order to eliminate the risk of heart-related conditions and to help you in diagnosing the reason for your chest pain, your doctor can ask for the following tests.

  • ŸElectrocardiogram to check your heart’s electrical activity.
  • ŸBlood test to check your enzyme levels.
  • ŸX-ray of your chest to scan your lungs, blood vessels and heart.
  • ŸEchocardiogram to capture the images of your beating heart using sound waves.
  • ŸCT (Computed tomography) scan to check for obstructed blood vessels.
  • ŸMRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to see whether the damage is related with your aorta or heart.
  • ŸStress tests to check the functioning of your heart after doing physical activity.
  • ŸAngiogram to check for obstructions in specific arteries.

Treatments for Chest Pain

The underlying cause for your chest pain is going to determine which treatment will suit you best.

1. Medications

The following are the medications that are commonly used for treating the typical causes of chest pain.

  • Artery relaxers.They are tablets of nitroglycerine that are put under the tongue. They can relax the arteries of your heart, allowing the blood to flow without difficulty. Blood pressure medicines perform the same task by widening the blood vessels.
  • Aspirin.It is usually prescribed by the doctor if he figures out that your chest pain is caused by a heart condition.
  • Clot-busting drugs. These medicines can disintegrate the clots that are obstructing blood flow to your heart. They are usually given during heart attacks.
  • Blood thinners. These medicines prevent the clotting of blood and stop the formation of further clots. They are usually prescribed if you have clots in arteries that go to your lungs or heart.
  • Acid-suppressing medications. These medicines minimize the production of acid in your stomach. They are given if the doctor suspects that your chest pain is the result of acid regurgitation.
  • Antidepressants. These medicines help in controlling the symptoms associated with depression and anxiety and are prescribed only if you are having panic attacks.

2. Surgical and Other Procedures

If the causes of chest pain are life-threatening, your doctor will usually go to treat you with the following procedures.

  • Placement of balloons and stent.This procedure is performed if you have a blockage in one of your arteries and involves the insertion of a narrow tube into one of your large blood vessels located in the groin. Once the tube reaches the blockage, a balloon or stent, which is a small wire mesh tube, is inserted in your artery to reopen it.  
  • Bypass surgery. This procedure involves the creation of an alternate route that provides blood the chance to bypass the blocked artery. The blood vessel used for creating this bypass is taken from a different part of your body.
  • Dissection repair. This is an emergency surgery which is performed if you have an aortic dissection. It is a serious condition in which there is a danger of rupturing of the main artery of your heart.  
  • Lung reinflation. This procedure involves the insertion of a tube in the chest which is used to reinflate the lungs. It is performed if one of your lungs has collapsed.