Chest Pain: What It Means and When to Worry

Find out when you need to worry about chest pain.

Chest pain is always a cause for concern, however, many people fail to realize that it can also be a symptom of health issues other than heart disease or the onset of a heart attack. There are actually multiple causes of chest pain. Some are life-threatening, but others are not immensely dangerous to your health. How can you tell the difference? You may not be able to. We'll explain.

What Is Chest Pain and What Can Cause It?
Chest pain is any type of discomfort felt along the front of the body between the neck and upper abdomen. It is often described as tightness, pressure, squeezing or tingling. According to the National Institutes of Health, heart problems that can cause chest pain include:

  • Heart attack (angina)
  • A tear in the wall of the aorta, or aortic dissection
  • Pericarditis, the sac surrounding the heart becomes inflamed

Lung problems can also cause chest pain. Lung conditions that may cause chest pain can include:

  • Blood clot, or pulmonary embolism
  • Collapsed lung, or pneumothorax
  • Pneumonia

The digestive system can cause chest pain, too. Digestive conditions that may cause chest pain can include:

  • Heartburn (acid reflux)
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Gallstones

Chest pain can even occur during panic attacks or if you strain a muscle in your chest. Excessive coughing or asthma flare-ups can result in chest pain, too. For that reason, some people are simply too embarrassed to call 911 when they experience chest pain because they’re not sure whether or not they’re having a heart attack. They dismiss their chest pain as heartburn symptoms and wait for the pain to subside.

When to Worry About Chest Pain
During a heart attack, time is of the essence—lasting damage can be done to your heart if you wait too long to go to the hospital. You should call 911 if the cause of your chest pain is unclear or any of the following are true:

  • You feel a sudden pressure or tightening in your chest out of nowhere, particularly if you are at rest
  • Your chest pain spreads to your jaw, left arm or your shoulder blades
  • You feel nauseous, dizzy or experience cold sweats
  • Your heart is racing or you feel out of breath

When it comes to chest pain, it’s always best to make sure it is not life-threatening. Call 9-1-1 immediately for sudden chest pain even if you're not experiencing the symptoms exactly as mentioned above.

Denton Regional Medical Center is home to Denton County’s only Cycle III Accredited Chest Pain Center, meaning that no other hospital in the area is better prepared in cardiac emergencies.  To learn more about the Heart Center and cardiac services offered, visit us online or call 1-855-477-DRMC for a physician referral.

Related Posts:
Men vs. Women: Not Every Heart Attack Is the Same
Top 5 Surprising Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack

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