Overview of Chest Pain
Chest pain can range from sharp to dull. It can also spread from the chest to the neck, jaw, and into the arms. There are many different causes of chest pain. The two most life-threatening involve the lungs and the heart. The cause of chest pain may not be serious, but if you are not sure, then it is best to see your physician immediately. While it may not be anything, it is not worth the risk.
Symptoms of Chest Pain
Chest pain may feel like a variety of things and can mainly depend on what the cause is. Most of the time, chest pain is not heart related. Symptoms may very often be life-threatening, so seeing your physician is essential. Some common symptoms that may be experienced are: nausea, vomiting, cold sweats, shortness of breath, dizziness, weakness, pain that gets worse with activity, pressure in the chest, trouble swallowing, sour taste in your mouth, or pain that gets worse when coughing or breathing in deeply. You must see your physician immediately if you have unexplained chest pain.
Causes of Chest Pain
There are many causes of chest pain, and each cause will need medical attention. Chest pain can be lung related. A pulmonary embolism can occur when a blood clot is lodged in the pulmonary artery. Pleurisy occurs when the membrane that covers the lungs is inflamed. When this occurs, chest pain is usually evident when you cough or even when you breathe deeply. Chest pain with a collapsed lung is seen suddenly and will last for hours. Pulmonary hypertension happens when you have high blood pressure in the arteries that take blood to the lungs.
Other causes can be associated with a panic attack, shingles, heart attack, various heart problems, heartburn, swallowing disorders, gallbladder or pancreas problems, and many other muscle and bone problems.
Diagnosis of Chest Pain
Chest pain does not always mean that you are having a heart attack, however, that is typically the first thing that is tested for. After this, they will likely check for a collapsed lung or a clot in the lungs. Some of the first tests that you will go through are an electrocardiogram (ECG), which will show if you are having a heart attack. Blood tests may also be ordered to check for proteins in the blood that are typically found in the heart muscle. A chest x-ray will allow for the physicians to see the lungs and the heart. This may show signs of a collapsed lung or pneumonia. A computerized tomography (CT) scan can show a pulmonary embolism or can help rule out an aortic dissection.
Once this first round of testing is complete, there may be follow up testing that needs to be done. This may include an echocardiogram, which will show the sound waves of the heart. Different types of CT scans may also be done to check heart arteries. A stress test may be done to see how your heart and lungs respond when under stress. An angiogram may help to identify which arteries are being blocked.
Treatment of Chest Pain
Treatment will depend on what the cause of the chest pain is. The most common medications used to treat chest pain include: artery relaxers, aspirin, blood thinners, antidepressants, acid-suppressing medications, or thrombolytic drugs.
There are also many procedures that can happen to treat chest pain. In the situation where someone has a collapsed lung, then can insert a tube into the chest in an effort to inflate the lung again. If an aortic dissection has occurred, then there is an emergency surgery that can happen to repair this. A bypass surgery may help if there is a blocked artery.
When to See a Doctor
You will want to see a physician if any of these symptoms occur without any reason. If you feel that your chest is very tight or even being crushed, then this is an evident sign that something is wrong. You may also feel that this pain is travelling to other body parts, or your blood pressure may drop drastically. In some cases, you will also experience shortness of breath. If you notice that your symptoms get worse after 15 minutes and just feel that something is wrong, then it is time to go to the doctor. This is especially true if you suspect that you are having a heart attack. The physician can then properly diagnose you and get the right treatment going in an effort to avoid serious health problems. While chest pain may be a term that is used very loosely, it should never be ignored. When in doubt, it is best to see your physician to rule out any life-threatening problems that may be occurring.
How to Prevent Chest Pain
The best way to prevent chest pain is to look into the causes of chest pain and then see how you can prevent those causes. For example, reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is one of the most common causes of chest pain. Some ways to prevent GERD or reflux is to lose weight, avoid foods that cause reflux, eat smaller meals, quit smoking, etc. If your chest pain is caused by blood clots, then ask your physician about implementing an exercise routine. Your physician may also recommend blood thinners. Another cause of chest pain is a collapsed lung, in which you should stop smoking.
No matter the cause of the chest pain, there are multiple things that can be done to help. You must quit smoking immediately. If you have tried to quit in the past, but have been unsuccessful, reach out to your physician and ask for help. Eating properly can also make all the difference. You will want to eat low-fat foods, and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Regular exercise will also help the body. If you are overweight or obese, then you will also need to lose weight. If your chest pain is typically anxiety related, then you will want to find something to do that relaxes you after a stressful day.