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Chest, Heart Pain

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What is it?  

Chest pain is any pain that is felt in the chest.Chest pain may come from many parts of the chest including the:  

  • Heart

  • Lungs

  • Oesophagus (food pipe)

  • Muscles

  • Bones - including your ribs  and sternum (breatbone)

  • Abdomen - the pain is "referred" to the chest

  • Skin  

Chest discomfort or pain can be a key warning symptom of a heart attack.  

Heart attack symptoms include “crushing or squeezing” (like a heavy weight on the chest) with any of the following symptoms:  

  • Sweating

  • Shortness of breath

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, upper belly, or one or both shoulders or arms. The left shoulder and arm are more commonly affected.

  • Lightheadedness or sudden weakness

  • A fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat  

If you have any of these symptoms of a heart attack you should call 000 or other emergency services immediately.

 

What causes it?  

There are several common causes of chest pain.  

This includes:  

  • Indigestion or reflux (stomach acid coming up the oesophagus( can fell like a burning pain in the chest. This common problem can be made worse by smoking, alcohol, caffeine, fatty foods and some medications

  • Muscle strains and inflammation in the spaces between the ribs, near the breastbone (coctochondritis)

  • An injury such as a broken rib

  • A collapsed lung

  • A blood clot in the lung

  • Lung  Cancer

  • Shingles can cause chest or rib pain before a skin rash develops

  • Coughing such as pleurisy (inflammation of the tissue lining of the lungs), bronchitis and other types of chest infections

  • Aortic dissection, which can cause chest pain when the aortic vessel tears  

Burning chest pain that occurs when you cough may be caused by an upper respiratory infection caused by a virus.

You may also have a fever with the cough.Angina is caused by poor blood flow to the heart and usually occurs when the heart has to work harder than usual.Many people with coronary artery disease (or blocked heart blood vessels) experience angina.This often happens with exercise, high emotion or distress, cold weather or after eating a large meal.Angina does not cause damage to the heart but, if untreated, may lead to a heart attack.Chest pain can also be due to a sudden blockage in the coronary (heart) arteries, causing a heart attack.Many Australians die of a heart attached because they do not know the signs or wait too long to act.Chest pain that lasts more than 10 minutes (at rest) needs to be promptly investigated by a doctor.

 

Common treatments  

Before treatment can begin, the cuse of the pain must be found. There are a range of tests and treatments you may need.Chest discomfort or pain that comes on or gets worse with exercise, stress, or eating a large meal and goes away with rest may be a warningsymptom of heart disease.Indigestion or reflux often goes away with antacid medication or milk.If you experience chest pain it is important to rest to reduce the heart's workload.Your doctor may recommend the following:  

  • Oxygen therapy to reduce the stress on the heart and supplement the blodd with oxygen

  • An ECG (elctrocardiogram) - a simple test used to monitor the electrical activity within the heart

  • An exercise stress test

  • Blood tests - to measure markers from the heart (cardiac enzymes) and other organs

  • A chest x-ray - to look at the lungs, heart and major blood vessels in the chest

  • Medication - to relieve pain and dilate (widen) the blood vessels to allow the blood to flow more effectively. (Aspirin in low doses reduces the tendency of small blood cells called platelets to stick together, which helps prevent the formation of blood clots)

If angina is suspected, further tests may be needed to check the blood vessels that supply the heart, such as an angiogram. Your doctor willadvise you if this is needed.Your doctor may also refer you to a Cardiologist (heart doctor) for more tests if required.

  

Surgery  

If you have sever angina that is not responding to medication, a cardiologist may decide you need surgery to restore heart function to anadequate level and reduce the likelihood of a heart attack.

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About Pain does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment