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Chest Pain – What is it?

Chest Pain – What is it?

Chest pain is a common complaint, and it one of the most common reasons for individuals to seek emergency medical attention. Each year, millions of patients are treated for chest pain by emergency room doctors. It is most commonly seen as a sign of a heart attack, but it may also be a sign of a completely unrelated problem. While not all causes of chest pain are as major as a heart attack, many can be severe. As a result, chest pain is a symptom that almost always warrants medical attention.

Chest Pain - Symptoms

Pain in the chest can present in numerous ways that may or may not be related to the cardiovascular system. Chest pain brought on by cardiac problems is usually associated with a feeling of pressure or tightness in the chest, searing or crushing pain that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and returns, dizziness, nausea, sweating, or shortness of breath. Chest pain caused by noncardiac issues is usually associated with a burning sensation, sour taste, trouble swallowing, tenderness when the chest is pushed on, or pain that changes in intensity when coughing, breathing or changing positions.

Chest Pain – The Cause

Cardiac chest pain may be caused by heart attack, angina, aortic dissection, coronary spasm, pericarditis, and other heart-related conditions. Digestive problems like heartburn, esophageal spasm, achalasia, gallbladder problems, pancreas problems, or a hiatal hernia are common non-cardiac causes of pain in the chest. Other reasons may include costochondritis, sore muscles, rib injuries, pinched nerves, pulmonary embolism, pleurisy, collapsed lung, shingles, cancer, and panic attack. In most cases, only a doctor can determine the exact cause of chest pain, so it is vital to have any case evaluated.

Chest Pain- Seek Medical Attention

Because it is often an emergency situation, doctors try to diagnose the cause of chest pain as quickly as possible. The patient's vital signs are obtained along with a complete medical history. If the patient is not presently in a life-threatening situation, a comprehensive physical examination will be performed. Numerous tests may be performed including MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds, or heart catheterization. Blood tests may also be conducted to check for problems like high cholesterol levels that may be causing blockages.

Chest Pain - Treatment

Treating chest pain depends on the cause. Many problems can be managed through medications or lifestyle changes. When defects cause pain to the heart or arteries, however, surgical procedures may be necessary. Heart attack patients may require open-heart surgery while preventative procedures may be performed arthroscopically.