“Pain” isn’t always a clear description of a sensation. You can feel discomfort that doesn’t rise to the level of pain, or you may feel pressure that isn’t exactly pain, but isn’t normal either. With chest pain, the nature of the sensation, the duration, and other factors can point to the cause.
At Heart & Vascular Institute, our providers have heard all sorts of descriptions of chest pain, and they’re experts in asking the right questions to begin understanding where your pain originates and whether it indicates an emergency.
In this post, we discuss three broad categories of reasons for chest pain. If you feel chest pain, pressure, or tightness, you should seek medical attention. Not all chest pain is life-threatening, but it can be difficult to know what’s causing it without the care of a highly trained professional.
1. Heart-related chest pain
There are multiple heart conditions and events that can cause chest pain. During a heart attack, or myocardial infarction, some people feel chest pain, but others don’t. Chest pain isn’t always a symptom of myocardial infarction.
Aortic dissection is an emergency that causes sudden, severe pain in your chest, neck, throat, or jaw. You may feel like something inside is tearing. Aortic dissection is caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure, which may weaken the wall of your aorta. Eventually, that main artery tears.
Angina is the medical name for chest pain that’s caused by lack of sufficient blood flow to your heart. If you have angina, it’s likely worse with exertion. It’s usually related to coronary artery disease, which is a buildup of plaque in your arteries. The plaque restricts the blood flow.
There are several other heart-related reasons that might cause you to feel pain or pressure in your chest. You should seek immediate care if you also feel nausea, if the pain is sudden and severe, if you’re also short of breath, if you have cold sweats, or if the pain eases, then returns.
There are several other heart-related reasons that might cause you to feel pain or pressure in your chest. You should seek immediate care if you also feel nausea, if the pain is sudden and severe, if you’re also short of breath, you have cold sweats, if the pain eases, then returns.
Angina is the medical name for chest pain that's caused by lack of or sufficient blood to the heart. If you have angina, it's likely to worsen with exertion. It usually related to coronary artery disease.
2. Digestive problems and chest pain
Plenty of people suffering severe heartburn think they’re having a heart attack — and for good reason. Pain in your chest is scary, and when it hurts especially bad, you probably think you’re experiencing a medical emergency.
Acid reflux, or heartburn, can cause chest pain. Gallstones, too, can cause pain in your chest. Inflammation of your pancreas, which can be serious, may also make your chest hurt. Appropriate medical care is important in all of these situations.
3. Respiratory-related chest pain
Since your lungs are in your chest, it makes sense that they could be a cause of chest pain. If you have asthma, you may have bronchospasms, which can be painful. Pneumonia and some forms of bronchitis often cause chest pain.
A dangerous respiratory-related problem that may cause chest pain is a blood clot, or pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism can damage your lung, lower the oxygen levels in your blood, which in turn, can cause problems with your other organs. It can also be life-threatening.
Don’t just worry about your chest pain; seek the guidance of a qualified expert. Book your appointment today, by phone or online, at one of our three convenient locations in Dearborn, Detroit, and Southfield, Michigan. Understanding the reason your chest hurts could save your life.