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There are 69 possible causes of chest pain

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What Is Chest Pain?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chest pain is one of the most common reasons that people ages 15 and older visit the emergency room. In 2008, about nine percent of all ER visits were related to chest pain. (CDC, 2010)

Chest pain varies from person to person. It may feel like a sharp, stabbing pain or a dull ache. While chest pain may be a sign of a serious heart-related problem, it may also have other common, non–life-threatening causes.

What Causes Chest Pain?

When you have chest pain, your first thought may be that you are having a heart attack. While chest pain is a possible sign of a heart problem, many other, less serious conditions can also cause chest pain. Only about 13 percent of all ER visits for chest pain result in a diagnosis of a serious heart-related problem. (CDC, 2010)

Heart-Related Causes of Chest Pain

  • heart attack
  • angina—chest pain due to blockages in the blood vessels leading to your heart
  • pericarditis—inflammation of the sac around the heart
  • myocarditis—inflammation of the heart muscle
  • cardiomyopathy—heart muscle disease
  • aortic dissection—a rare condition involving rupture of the heart’s main artery

Gastrointestinal Causes of Chest Pain

  • acid reflux (heartburn)
  • swallowing problems related to disorders of the esophagus
  • gallstones or inflammation of the gallbladder or pancreas

Lung-Related Causes of Chest Pain

  • pneumonia
  • viral bronchitis
  • pneumothorax—a leak of air from your lung into your chest

Muscle/Bone Causes of Chest Pain

  • bruised or broken ribs
  • sore muscles from exertion or chronic pain syndromes
  • compression fracture, causing pressure on a nerve

Other Causes of Chest Pain

  • shingles—an infection of the nerves and skin caused by the chicken pox virus
  • panic attack – a sudden episode of intense fear when there is no real danger or cause

What Other Symptoms May Accompany Chest Pain?

Chest pain may be accompanied by other symptoms that will help with diagnosis.

Heart-Related Symptoms

While pain is the most common symptom of a heart problem, some people experience other symptoms, with or without accompanying chest pain. Women in particular have reported atypical symptoms that have later been diagnosed as a heart condition.

  • pressure or tightness in the chest
  • back, jaw, or arm pain
  • fatigue
  • feeling light-headed, dizzy, or short of breath
  • abdominal pain or nausea
  • pain after exertion

Other Symptoms

Symptoms that may indicate your chest pain is not heart-related include:

  • sour or acidic taste in your mouth
  • pain only after you swallow or eat, or difficulty swallowing
  • pain that is better or worse depending on your body position
  • pain that is worse when you breathe deeply or cough
  • tenderness when you push on your chest
  • pain accompanied by a rash
  • fever, aches, chills, runny nose, or cough
  • feelings of panic or anxiety
  • hyperventilating
  • back pain that radiates to the front of the chest

How Is Chest Pain Diagnosed?

If you think you may be having a heart attack, it’s important that you seek emergency treatment immediately, especially if chest pain is new, unexplained, or lasts more than a few moments.

Your doctor will ask a number of questions to help diagnose the cause of your chest pain. Be prepared to discuss any related symptoms and to share information about any medications, treatments, or other medical conditions you may have.

Diagnostic Tests

Your doctor may order tests to help diagnose or eliminate heart-related problems as a cause of your chest pain. These may include:

  • electrocardiogram, which records your heart’s electrical activity
  • blood tests, to measure enzyme levels
  • chest X-ray, to examine heart, lungs, and blood vessels
  • echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to record moving images of the heart
  • computed tomography (CT) scan, to look for blockages in blood vessels
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which looks for damage to the heart or aorta
  • stress tests, to measure your heart function after exertion
  • angiogram, to look for blockages in specific arteries

How Is Chest Pain Treated?

Chest pain might be treated with medication, noninvasive procedures, surgery, or a combination of all of the above.

Heart-Related Treatments

  • medications, including nitroglycerin and other artery relaxers, clot-busting drugs, and blood thinners
  • cardiac catheterization, using balloons and/or stents to open blocked arteries
  • surgical repair of arteries

Other Treatments

  • lung re-inflation, in case of a collapsed lung
  • antacids or certain procedures for acid reflux and heartburn
  • anti-anxiety medications for chest pain related to panic attacks

What Is the Outlook for Chest Pain?

Many common causes of chest pain can be easily treated and resolved. However, chest pain can also be a symptom of a life-threatening condition.

If you think you may be experiencing a heart attack or other heart problem, seeking medical treatment immediately can help save your heart muscle and your life. Once you have been diagnosed, your doctor can recommend additional treatments to help manage your condition.

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Possible Causes - Listed in order from the most common to the least.

1

Heart Attack Overview

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A clot blocks the blood flow to the heart (heart attack), and damages heart muscle. Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, and a blue or grey tinge to the skin.

Read more »

2

Types of Acid Reflux

Acid reflux symptoms are caused when stomach contents flow up from the stomach back into the esophagus, causing symptoms like heartburn, stomach pain, and burping.

Read more »

3

Unstable Angina

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Angina is a condition marked by crushing pain in your chest that may also be felt in your shoulders, neck, and arms. The pain is caused by inadequate blood supply to your heart, which leaves your heart deprived o...

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4

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) occurs when the heart muscle (myocardium) becomes thicker than normal. This interferes with your heart's ability to pump blood. Possible symptoms are dizziness, chest pain, and more.

Read more »

5

Angina Pectoris

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Angina is a type of chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart. Lower blood flow means your heart isn't getting enough oxygen. This pain often occurs with physical activity or stress. Stable angina, als...

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6

Heartburn

Heartburn typically occurs when contents from the stomach back up into the esophagus. This causes a burning sensation in the chest and a bitter taste in the throat or mouth. Heartburn may be prevented by avoiding food...

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7

Ischemic Cardiomyopathy

Ischemic cardiomyopathy is a condition that occurs when the heart muscle is weakened due to insufficient blood flow to the heart's muscle. This inhibits the heart's ability to pump blood and can lead to heart failure.

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8

Pulmonary Embolism

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that affects blood flow to the lungs. It can damage part of the lung due to restricted blood flow, decrease blood oxygen. The most common symptom is shortness of breath.

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9

Pericarditis

Pericarditis is the inflammation of the sac that surrounds your heart. The sac is a double-layered membrane called the pericardium. The pericardium protects your heart and helps it function properly.Pericarditis can b...

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10

Myocarditis

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle. It is a rare condition that can be caused by any number of autoimmune diseases, viral, bacterial, or fungal infections, or parasites. When you have an infection or a...

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11

Arteriosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a narrowing of the arteries caused by a buildup of plaque. It is also called arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients from th...

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12

Mitral Valve Stenosis

Your mitral valve is located on the left side of your heart, between two chambers, the atrium and the ventricle. Blood is pumped from the left atrium through the mitral valve and into the left ventricle on its way t...

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13

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) Overview

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the leading cause of death in the United States. Learn the definition, symptoms and causes of CAD by reading our overview.

Read more »

14

The Catastrophy of Cardiac Tamponade

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Cardiac tamponade is a condition where the sac that encases your heart fills with fluid and then puts pressure on your heart. This undue pressure keeps the heart from filling with blood properly. When this happens, th...

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15

Chronic Bronchitis

Your bronchial tubes are responsible for delivering air to your lungs. When these tubes become inflamed, mucus can build up. The coughing and shortness of breath this causes is known as bronchitis. People often develo...

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16

Infectious Mononucleosis

Infectious mononucleosis, often called "mono," is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). It typically occurs in teenagers, but you can get it at any age. The virus is spread through saliva, which is why some peopl...

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17

Costochondritis (Tietze's Syndrome)

Costochondritis causes chest pain that is related to inflammation of cartilage in your rib cage. More specifically, costochondritis often affects the cartilage where upper ribs attach to the sternum (breastbone). Thi...

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18

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an infection in one or both lungs. The infection may be caused by fungi, bacteria, or viruses. Pneumonia causes inflammation in your lung's air sacs, also referred to as alveoli. The alveoli fill with flui...

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19

Gastritis

Gastritis is inflammation in the protective lining of the stomach. Acute gastritis involves sudden, severe inflammation, while chronic gastritis involves long-term inflammation that can last for years, if lef...

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20

Anemia

Anemia occurs when the number of healthy red blood cells (RBCs) in the body is too low. Red cells carry oxygen to all the body's tissues, so a low red blood cell count indicates that the amount of oxygen in the blood i...

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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