Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Table of Contents

Definition

Chest pain is discomfort or pain that you feel anywhere along the front of your body between your neck and upper abdomen.


Alternative Names

Chest tightness; Chest pressure; Chest discomfort


Considerations

Many people with chest pain fear a heart attack. However, there are many possible causes of chest pain. Some causes are not dangerous to your health, while other causes are serious and even life-threatening.

Any organ or tissue in your chest can be the source of pain, including your heart, lungs, esophagus, muscles, ribs, tendons, or nerves. Pain may also spread to the chest from the neck, abdomen, and back.


Common Causes

Heart problems that can cause chest pain:

  • Angina or a heart attack is pain that occurs because your heart is not getting enough blood and oxygen. The most common symptom is chest pain that may feel like tightness, heavy pressure, squeezing, or crushing pain. The pain may spread to the arm, shoulder, jaw, or back.
  • A tear in the wall of the aorta, the large blood vessel that takes blood from the heart to the rest of the body (aortic dissection) causes sudden, severe pain in the chest and upper back.
  • Swelling (inflammation) in the sac that surrounds the heart (pericarditis) causes pain in the center part of the chest.

Lung problems that can cause chest pain:

  • A blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism)
  • Collapse of athe lung (pneumothorax)
  • Inflammation of the lining around the lung (pleurisy) can cause chest pain that usually feels sharp, and often gets worse when you take a deep breath or cough.
  • Pneumonia causes a sharp chest pain that often gets worse when you take a deep breath or cough.

Other causes of chest pain:

  • Panic attack, which often occurs with fast breathing
  • Inflammation where the ribs join the breast bone or sternum (costochondritis)
  • Shingles, which causes sharp, tingling pain on one side that stretches from the chest to the back, and may cause a rash
  • Strain or inflammation of the muscles and tendons between the ribs

Chest pain can also be due to the following digestive system problems:

  • Spasms or narrowing of the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach)
  • Gallstones cause pain that gets worse after a meal (most often a fatty meal)
  • Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
  • Stomach ulcer or gastritis (burning pain occurs if your stomach is empty and feels better when you eat food)

In children, most chest pain is not caused by the heart.



Review Date: 05/23/2011
Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org)