What Causes Chest Pain

Chest pain is often caused by a cardiac disorder as well as disorders of the esophagus, lungs or large blood vessels located almost anywhere between the jaw and the upper abdomen of the human body which includes the shoulders and arms. The discomfort felt due to chest pain can be described as burning, pressure, aching as well as a sharp and shooting pain.

What Causes Chest Pain:

There are numerous causes of chest pain and the most immediate as well as life-threatening cause of chest pain includes a heart attack. Separation of the layers of the walls of the aorta also causes chest pain and is equally life-threatening as a heart attack. Similarly rupture of the esophagus, blood clots in the lungs as well as a collapsed lung can build up pressure that obstructs normal blood flow returning to the heart can cause severe chest pain. The less dangerous causes of chest pain include inflammation of the sacs that envelope the heart, inadequate supply of blood to the heart, pneumonia, cancer as well as inflammation of the pancreas.

Acid reflux in the esophagus, inflammation of the rib cartilage as well as peptic ulcer can also cause chest pain but are rarely dangerous causes of chest pain. Similarly inflammation of the membranes covering the lungs, disorder of the gallbladder as well as straining of the chest muscles can cause chest pain and these causes are not dangerous life-threatening in any manner. Often the mitral valve prolapse can also cause chest pain where the people suffering from mitral valve prolapse experience intermittent episodes of sharp and stabbing pain. Mitral valve prolapse occurs when the valve between the left ventricle and left atrium bulges back into the left atrium after the left ventricle contracts.

Evaluation of Chest Pain:

Often the symptoms of the causes of chest pain can help the doctor determine the real cause of chest pain. For example in case the person experiencing chest pain also experiences a squeezing sensation in the chest as well as tightness in the chest that occurs during physical activity the doctor will be able to determine the actual cause of chest pain as inadequate blood supply to the heart. In case of inadequate blood supply to the heart the person often gets relief from the pain by resting for a few minutes. Similarly in case the person is experiencing a sharp pain that usually worsens when the person breathes deeply or lies down the doctor will be able to pinpoint the cause of chest pain as pericarditis in case the chest pain is not caused by any physical activity.

The other symptoms of the causes of chest pain include increase in pain by deep breathing and the cause is usually pleuritis. Aortic dissection which is one of the main causes of chest pain produces excruciating and sharp pain between the shoulder blades, the back of the neck, the abdomen as well as down the back.

The symptoms caused due to the dangerous and rarely dangerous chest disorders can often overlap and vary considerably. Hence most doctors suggest the performance of different tests and physical examinations on the person suffering from chest pain. The physical examinations and evaluations are usually performed in an emergency department or in the hospital if the cause of chest pain is serious. The tests to be performed on the person experiencing chest pain are chosen according to the physical examination of the person, age of the person, medical history of the person, risk factors and other symptoms. The most commonly prescribed test on persons suffering from chest pain is the electrocardiogram or ECG. Other common tests prescribed on persons suffering from chest pain include measurement of oxygen levels and chest x-ray. In case the doctor suspects a heart attack several blood tests are performed to measure the levels of proteins and enzymes in the heart muscle. High levels of enzymes and proteins in the heart muscle indicate damage to the muscles of the heart. In case the doctor suspects angina the doctor usually prescribes an exercise stress test to determine the diagnosis.

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Yasser Elnahas

MD, PHD, Professor Of CardioVascular Surgery
Dr. Yasser Elnahas, Is an associate Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery. Dr. Elnahas was trained as a fellow At Texas Heart Institute And Mayo Clinic Foundation.Dr. Elnahas is dedicated to educating the general public about different disease conditions and simplifying the medical knowledge in an easy to understand terminology.

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