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Chest Pain

It is a feeling of discomfort or pains that one feels anywhere along the front of the body between the neck and upper abdomen. Chest pain can be a sharp stab to a dull ache or crushing and burning pain.

Chest pain has many possible causes and all of them may need medical attention.

Heart or blood vessel problems can cause chest pain

  • Heart attack: A heart attack is a result of a blood clot which blocks the blood flow to the heart muscle resulting in severe chest pain.
  • Angina: Thick plaques can gradually build up on the inner walls of the arteries restricting the flow of the blood and oxygen to the heart muscle causing pain but not permanent damage to the heart. The chest pain caused in this case spreads to the arm, shoulder, jaw, or back.
  • Aortic dissection: A tear in the wall of the aorta that takes blood from the heart to the rest of the body can causes sudden, severe pain in the chest and upper back.
  • Pericarditis: The inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart causes pain in the center part of the chest. This pain is however short-lived and often related to a viral infection.

Lung problems that causes chest pain

  • Pulmonary embolism: In this case chest pain occurs when a blood clot becomes lodged in the pulmonary artery, blocking blood flow to lung tissue.
  • Pleurisy: When the membrane that covers the lungs becomes inflamed, it causes chest pain.
  • Collapsed lung: When air leaks into the space between the lung and the ribs it causes pain in the chest.
  • Pulmonary hypertension: High blood pressure in the arteries carrying blood to the lungs can cause chest pain.

Chest pain can also be due to disorders of the digestive system

  • Heartburn: It's a painful, burning sensation which is caused when stomach acid washes up from your stomach into the esophagus.
  • Spasms or narrowing of the esophagus
  • Gallbladder or pancreas problems: Inflammation of the gallbladder or pancreas can cause abdominal pain that radiates as chest pain.

Muscle and bone causes

  • Costochondritis: The cartilage of the rib cage becomes inflamed and painful in this condition.
  • Sore muscles: Chronic pain syndromes can produce muscle-related chest pain.
  • Injured ribs A bruised or broken rib can cause chest pain.

Other causes

  • Panic attack: It is an intense fear accompanied by chest pain, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, and profuse sweating.
  • Shingles: Caused by a reactivation of the chickenpox virus it causes sharp, tingling pain.

Treatment is based on the main reason causing the chest pain

  • Medications: Some drugs are used to treat mild or common cases of chest pain
  • Artery relaxers: It relaxes heart arteries enabling the blood to flow more easily through the narrowed spaces.
  • Clot-busting drugs: It dissolves the clot that is blocking blood from reaching the heart muscle.
  • Blood thinners: This drug helps in preventing more clots from forming.
  • Anti-anxiety drugs: It is given to people experiencing panic attacks.

Surgical and other procedures

  • Bypass surgery: In this procedure a blood vessel from another part of the body is used to create an alternative route for blood to go around the blocked artery.
  • Balloons and stents: In the case of a blockage in an artery feeding your heart, a narrow tube is inserted into a large blood vessel in your groin and then it is threaded up to the blockage and then a balloon is used to reopen the artery. Sometime a small wire mesh tube stent is inserted to keep the artery open.
  • Dissection repair: It is an emergency surgery done to repair an aortic dissection.
  • Lung reinflation: In the case of a collapsed lung a tube is inserted in the chest, which allows the lung to reinflate.