Chest pain refers to pressure, squeezing, or general discomfort in the chest area, which includes the heart, breast, and neck areas. Any pressure or pain in the chest area is collectively referred to as chest pain. Chest pain varies in location, duration, frequency, and strength, depending largely on its cause. The pain may be temporary or prolonged. It may occur sporadically, frequently, only during certain times (like during exercise) or only once.
Alternative names: chest tightness or pressure, chest discomfort or breathlessness in case of diabetics who may not experience any pain.
Like many people with chest pain, you may fear a heart attack. However, there are many possible causes of chest pain. Some causes are mildly inconvenient, while other causes are serious, even life-threatening. Any organ or tissue in your chest can be the source of pain, including your heart, lungs, esophagus, muscles, ribs, tendons, or nerves.
If your chest pain is new or different from previous episodes of chest pain, you should be evaluated by a healthcare provider right away. This is especially true if you have any symptoms suggestive of a heart attack.
Chest pain is not a condition; it is a symptom of either serious illness (e.g. coronary artery disease or a heart attack) or a medically insignificant cause (e.g. heartburn). Chest pain that is caused by a change in position or a deep breath may relate to another heart condition, such as pericarditis or a lung condition such as a blood clot. In contrast, chest pain associated with a cold drink is usually not heart-related.
The chest is the area where the heart and lungs are located. These organs are protected by the rib cage and breastbone. Many different conditions can cause pain in the chest. Some causes of chest pain require prompt medical attention, such as angina, heart attack, or tearing of the aorta. Other causes of chest pain can be evaluated electively, such as spasm of the esophagus, gallbladder attack, or inflammation of the chest wall. Therefore, an accurate diagnosis is important in providing proper treatment to patients with chest pain. In adults, it is often a cause for concern because it can signal a heart attack. However, many conditions ranging from a pulled muscle to pneumonia can cause chest pain.
Medical attention should always be sought in instances of chest related pain or symptoms such as the following:
· Radiating pain
· Additional feelings (angina equivalents) such as dizziness, shortness of breath, sweating, faintness or fatigue
· Any new chest discomfort, especially in patients over the age of 40.
Breathlessness could be another mode of presentation which can point towards a cardiac/non-cardiac reason. But in case of cardiac problems like angina, the shortness of breath will be exertional. Breathlessness due to any lung pathology will always be associated with symptoms related to the underlying illness like fever, cough, etc. Heart patients who complain of breathlessness are usually diabetics who have deranged nerve conductions resulting in a lack of pain.
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