Chest Pain Explained

Pain in any part of the body can be agitating and sometimes fatal. However mild pain may seem, it is critical to seek medical attention because it could signify something serious.

For instance, a person having shortness of breath accompanied by chest pain should call emergency personnel and not drive themselves to the hospital. The medical team will be better equipped to handle emergencies and any other complications if they occur. Chest pain can be problematic and may cause dizziness and unconsciousness.

What Is Chest Pain?

Chest pain refers to discomfort or pressure at the centre of the chest that may run up towards the neck and down to the back and arms. It can vary from dull aches to sharp stabs, squeezing, pressure or heaviness.

Pain in the chest can be heart-related or non-heart-related. The discomfort can also originate from nerves, tendons, oesophagus or muscles in the chest. Heart-related pain, as well as pain associated with the lungs, can be life-threatening. Chest pain can be a signal of heart failure. Therefore, it is vital to seek immediate medical attention to save the heart muscle.

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Types of Chest Pain

  • Angina occurs when there is poor blood flow into the heart. When plaques form on the inner walls of arteries, they are unable to transport blood into the heart. This narrows down the arteries and reduces the supply of blood to the heart. Consequently, it causes a squeezing pain in the chest.
  • Stent pain is a type of chest pain that occurs after the insertion of a coronary stent into the coronary arteries. The pain is associated with the stretching of arteries during the placement of the coronary stent.
  • Musculoskeletal pain is a type of chest pain experienced when muscles, bones, nerves and ligaments are healing from open-heart surgery.

Causes of Chest Pain

Use of drugs such as cocaine is associated with cardiovascular ailments like chest pain. Other drugs such as dantrolene and cephalosporin antibiotics induce pericarditis, which causes chest pain.

Chest pain can result from psychological stress such as anxiety. Additionally, digestive disorders such as heartburn and gallbladder or pancreas problems can cause pain that travels to the chest. Broken or bruised ribs can also cause chest pain.

Another cause of chest pain is a pulmonary embolism, which is a condition whereby blood clots in a lung artery and inhibits blood flow to the lung. Also, when air leaks into the opening between the lungs and ribs, it causes a collapsed lung and subsequent chest pain as well.

Symptoms of Chest Pain

Chest pain is characterized by tightness under the sternum or squeezing on the left side of the chest. This pain can be accompanied by dizziness, nausea, vomiting and shortness of breath. Additionally, a person may experience a low heart rate, a rapid heartbeat, cold sweats, confusion and pale skin.

Other symptoms may include difficulty in swallowing, muscle aches, fever and chills. Sometimes, sharp pain in the chest may be short and intermittent. The person may also experience unusual tenderness on the chest, have a sour taste of food and experience discomfort when they change their body position.

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