Chest pain is never something that should be ignored. Whilst, the pain may be due to something completely benign, it could also be a sign of something more sinister which does warrant investigation and treatment.
Unexplained chest pain, particularly pain that is getting progressively worse over time or that is sustained, should not be disregarded. If you feel any discomfort and you are concerned, it is worth getting checked over by a cardiologist.
Diagnosing the cause of chest pain yourself is tricky and it is not uncommon for someone to think they are merely suffering from a muscular pain or indigestion, when in reality is a heart related issue. Pain felt anywhere between your neck and abdomen, could originate from any number of places within the body – your muscles, ribs, nerves, oesophagus, heart, or lungs. Depending on the cause of your pain, you may describe it as:
- Tight or crushing
In this article, we explore a few common chest pain causes and when to go and see a doctor.
Heart problems that can cause chest pain include:
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD): A blockage of the heart’s blood vessels leads to reduced blood flow to the heart, causing pain, widely known as angina. Whilst this symptom of heart disease doesn’t damage the heart, it can increase the risk of a heart attack in the future. The chest pain can spread to the arms, shoulder, jaw, or back and feel tight or pressured. Angina is often triggered by stress or exercise.
Pericarditis: This inflammation or infection of the sac around the heart causes similar pain to angina. However, the pain is often sharper and steadier along the upper neck and shoulders. It may get worse when you lay on your back, breathe, or swallow food.
Heart attack: If the blood flow to the heart is significantly decreased, it can cause cells in the heart muscle to die. Heart attacks feel more severe than angina episodes. You might feel a crushing pain in the centre or left side of your chest that is not relieved by rest. Other symptoms include sweating, shortness of breath, nausea and weakness.
Myocarditis: This heart muscle inflammation can cause fatigue, a fast heartbeat, fever, and difficulty breathing. There may not be an actual blockage, but the symptoms can resemble those of a heart attack.
Lung problems that may cause chest pain
Pneumonia: A lung infection that can cause pleuritic chest pain or a deep chest ache. It can often come on suddenly and is accompanied by chills, cough, and fever.
Pleuritis/ Pleurisy: An inflammation of the lungs and chest that causes sharp pain when breathing, sneezing, or coughing. The cause is often traced back to viral infections. However, less common causes can include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and even cancer.
Asthma: Asthma can cause shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing, and even chest pain. It is caused by an inflammation of the airways.
When should you see a doctor?
You should call your doctor if you are unsure what is causing the pain or if you have any at concerns more generally. If the pain starts suddenly or if it cannot be relieved by anti-inflammatory medication, this is another indicator that you should seek medical advice.
You should call 999 if you:
- Feel a sudden pressure, tightness or crushing under your breastbone
- Your chest pain spreads to your jaw, left arm or back
- The chest pain is sudden, with shortness of breath. Especially after a long period of inactivity
- You experience shallow blood pressure or heart rate
- You experience sudden nausea, dizziness, rapid heart rate, confusion, paleness and excessive sweating
A number of different heart conditions cause chest pain, particularly as patients’ age or when poor lifestyle choices affect their heart health. If you think that your chest pain is due to heart disease, it is vital to see a cardiologist in your area as soon as possible.
Venturi Cardiology is a trusted private cardiologist that serves the Northwest. We can often see patients quicker than the NHS and provide consultations in our clinic or over video calls to put your mind at rest.