Chest Pain

Chest pain can develop because of a number of reasons some of which can be caused by benign conditions while others could be life-threatening requiring immediate medical intervention particularly when it involves the heart or the lungs. It is also considered one of the common reasons why people visit the emergency room. However, there are several reasons for chest pain to occur which could be associated with the lungs, muscles, ribs, esophagus or the nerves. Chest pain can vary in its location, duration, intensity and could be described as a sharp pain, a dull ache or a stabbing pain. Alarmingly, most people associate chest pain with a heart attack as it is one of the signs.  So, it is important to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack and seek immediate medical intervention.

Cardiac Involvement

When an individual experiences chest pain, one of the first organs considered is the heart. Several of the individuals with heart conditions often experience a vague discomfort which may not be related to pain. However, chest discomfort associated with cardiac causes could present symptoms such as chest pain lasting more than 15 minutes, pain that spread to the arms, back, neck or jaw, pain that makes the chest feel tight, shortness of breath and sweating or feeling sick. Some of the common causes of chest pain associated with heart conditions include;

  • Coronary Artery Disease which occurs when the major blood vessels become damaged because of cholesterol deposits or inflammation. When the cholesterol deposits, known as plaques, accumulate in the blood vessels, it narrows the coronary arteries eventually resulting in the symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain or heart attack. The treatment for this disease usually includes lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, exercise, eating healthy and with medications.  
  • Myocarditis is associated with the damage or inflammation of the heart muscle. There are several causes for this condition including viral infection, adverse reaction to certain medications and autoimmune diseases. The most common symptoms of myocarditis include shortness of breath with exertion, heart palpitations, fatigue and chest pain. The treatment is usually based on rest, low-salt diet and with medications used to treat heart failure. 
  • Angina is the chest paint that occurs when the heart muscle is not receiving adequate oxygen-rich blood. The symptoms of angina could include discomfort of the shoulder, arms, neck and the back. Angina is an indication of an underlying heart problem such as stable angina, unstable angina and variant angina. Angina is treated by making lifestyle changes, including medications for the underlying cardiovascular condition and cardiac rehab. 

Lung problems associated with chest pain

There are various conditions associated with the lungs that could also present chest pain and some of them include asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis. One of the potentially life-threatening conditions involving chest pain includes pulmonary embolus that occurs when a blood clot travels to the lungs. In addition to chest pain with a deep breath, symptoms of pulmonary embolus can include a fast heartbeat, trouble breathing, cough and rarely loss of consciousness.

Often people don’t pay attention to initial symptoms of lung problems such as wheezing or nagging cough and may associate it with the normal process of natural ageing, but these early signs could often be the indication of lung disease. Identifying the initial symptoms of lung disease can help individuals receive early treatment before the disease becomes life-threatening. Some of the warning signs of lung disease are;

  • Chronic cough continuing for a month is usually an indication of something not right with the respiratory system
  • Chronic mucus production for a month or longer, this is developed by the airways of the lungs as the result of an infection or irritants
  • Wheezing occurs when the lung’s airway is blocked or are either too narrow
  • Chronic chest pain is also a warning sign of lung disease particularly if it lasts longer than a month
  • Coughing up blood, which could either come from the lungs or from the upper respiratory tract indicating a health problem.  

Some Examples of Digestive Causes and Chest Pain

  • Heartburn is the painful, burning sensation in the chest which often becomes worse after eating or when lying down. Heartburn is quite common and can usually be treated with over-the-counter medications. If it continues to affect the everyday routine, then this could be an indication of an underlying condition, so it is important to seek medical assistance. 
  • Peptic Ulcers are the sores developing inside of the stomach lining and can include gastric ulcers and duodenal ulcers. One of the symptoms of peptic ulcers includes heartburn along with burning stomach and bloating. If over-the-counter antacids and acid blockers were taken to relieve the pain but it continues to return, please visit the doctor.  

Muscle and Bone related Problems

Chest wall pain is one of the more frequent causes of non-cardiac chest pain, also known as musculoskeletal chest pain. It occurs as the result of problems that could affect the bones, the muscles or the nerves of the chest wall. In most of the cases, the pain is self-limited, however as chest pain could also be indicative of a serious problem, medical attention is required to assess and initiate appropriate treatment. Some of the common causes of chest pain include;

  • Costochondritis, the inflammation of the cartilage that attaches the ribs to the breastbone. It usually is localized to a particular location, typically the left side of the breastbone and can become worse when lying down, with coughing or sneezing and with physical activity. The condition could improve on its own without causing any permanent problems.
  • Rheumatic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis could also present inflammation of the spine or the rib joints. It is uncommon only to have chest pain with these diseases, but the unexplained chest wall pain associated with arthritis could enable the physician to consider rheumatic disease as one of the possible cause.
  • Chest Trauma could occur because of some event such as lifting a heavy object which could cause muscle sprains, bruises or fractures of the ribs. Therefore it is important to discuss with the health care provider about the activities that potentially had caused the problem.

References

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronary-artery-disease/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350619

https://www.myocarditisfoundation.org/about-myocarditis/

https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/angina-chest-pain

https://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/warning-signs-of-lung-disease/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20373229

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peptic-ulcer/symptoms-causes/syc-20354223

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/costochondritis/