Tag Archives: angina

Chest pains and what they can mean

8 Aug

We all get chest pains every now and then. Because of the hyper vigilance and the information flow about symptoms of heart attack each pain should be taken seriously and watched closely to ensure you are not having a heart attack.

However, not all chest pains are heart attacks, some could be triggered by other conditions:  According to some information gleaned from Heart and Stroke Foundation of the US

Chest pain
As part of taking your medical history, the doctor will ask about chest pain in an effort to distinguish angina, the pain that occurs when the heart muscle is not getting enough blood through the coronary arteries, from a variety of other types of chest discomfort.

Angina usually has certain characteristics. Many people describe it as a pressure, heaviness, squeezing, or tightness in the chest. Others complain of burning or aching. Relatively few people describe the pain as sharp or stabbing. The symptom can be almost anywhere in the chest, but typically it feels like a deep central discomfort behind the breastbone. Many people with angina clench their fists in front of their chests when groping for words to describe their chest pain. People often report that the discomfort spreads to the shoulders, arms, neck, or jaw, and that it is accompanied by shortness of breath or sweating. Doctors call this pattern of pain “radiation.” 

Chest discomfort is unlikely to be angina if it is fleeting (comes and goes in a few seconds), sharp, or stabbing. Similarly, pain that’s limited to a small area (within a couple of inches) is probably not from the heart. For example, a pain that feels like a pencil being poked into the chest for an instant is likely to be a muscle spasm, not angina.

If the diagnosis is angina, the next step is to distinguish between stable and unstable angina.

Stable angina.
Chest pain that typically lasts 1 to 5 minutes and goes away quickly (within 15 minutes) when you rest or take medication is probably stable angina. This is a chronic condition and typically occurs in response to specific triggers, such as physical exertion, emotional stress, exposure to cold, or sexual activity. Stable angina is caused by plaque that partially obstructs blood flow. The condition requires medical treatment, but it is not a medical emergency.

Unstable angina. Chest pain that builds in intensity, lasts several minutes to hours, occurs or continues even while resting, and does not respond to medication may be unstable angina — a condition that is much more dangerous than stable angina. Both heart attacks and unstable angina occur when a plaque develops a tear or breaks, and both are classified as acute coronary syndromes, requiring immediate medical attention. (The difference between the two is one of degree: In unstable angina, the artery is partially blocked — although a full blockage could develop. In a heart attack, the artery is completely blocked.)

Other causes of chest pain.
Of course, the heart isn’t the only organ in the chest, and other medical problems can cause chest discomfort. For example, lung conditions such as pneumonia or blood clots in the vessels supplying the lungs tend to cause shortness of breath and sharp pains that intensify with a deep breath. Inflammation of the tissues around the heart (pericarditis) can cause a sharp pain that often worsens when you lie down. Arthritis and other injuries to the bones and tissues in the wall of the chest can mimic heart attacks.

Sometimes the problem originates in the gastrointestinal system. Chest discomfort can result when acid from the stomach flows up into the esophagus (such as occurs in reflux esophagitis) or when it causes damage to the stomach wall (as in the case of ulcer or gastritis). Gallstones can occasionally cause chest discomfort very similar to angina.

 

 Always take with an ounce of precaution. The information provided here is just to make people aware of their own health condition, not to diagnose yourself. See a doctor if you feel any kind of pain in your chest.  It is better to be safe than sorry.

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