Chest Pain Causes

Your Heart:

  • Angina, often presented differently in women.
  • Myocardial infarction (Heart attack).
  • Aortic Stenosis.
  • Aortic dissection. This life-threatening condition involves the main artery leading from your heart — your aorta. If the inner outer layers of the Aorta separate, forcing blood to flow between them, the result is sudden and tearing chest and back pain. Aortic dissection can develop as a complication of uncontrolled high blood pressure.
  • Coronary spasm, or Prinzmetal's angina.
  • Pericarditis. This condition, an inflammation of the sac surrounding your heart, is short-lived and often related to a viral infection. It is often the result of other problems such as a heart attack or heart surgery, trauma, viral or fungal infection, tumors or cancer, uremia, connective tissue disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, sarcoidosis, scleroderma and some kind of medications.
  • Other heart-related conditions such as myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart that often is caused by viral infection and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, also may cause chest pain.

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Your Lungs:

  • Pulmonary embolism. This occurs when a blood clot becomes lodged in a lung (pulmonary) artery, blocking the blood flow.
  • Pleuritis. This sharp, localized chest pain that's made worse when you inhale or cough occurs when the two membranes that line your chest cavity and your lungs becomes inflamed. Pleurisy may result from a wide variety of underlying conditions, including pneumonia and, rarely, autoimmune conditions, such as lupus. An autoimmune disease is one in which your body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue.Other lung conditions.
  • Collapsed lung (pneumothorax),
  • Pulmonary hypertension, (high blood pressure in the arteries carrying blood to the lungs) and asthma also can produce chest pain.

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Your GI tract:

  • Heartburn, also called Acid reflux (Heart burn), also called Gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD). Stomach acid that washes up from your stomach into the tube (esophagus) that runs from your throat to your stomach can cause heartburn — a painful, burning sensation behind your breastbone (sternum).
  • Hiatal hernia. In this condition, part of the stomach slides up above the diaphragm into the chest. This can cause chest pressure or pain, particularly after eating, as well as heartburn.
  • Esophageal spasm. Disorders of the esophagus, the tube that runs from your throat to your stomach, can make swallowing difficult and even painful. One type is esophageal spasm, a condition that affects a small group of people with chest pain. When people with this condition swallow, the muscles that normally move food down the esophagus are uncoordinated. This results in painful muscle spasms.
  • Achalasia. In this swallowing disorder, the valve in the lower esophagus doesn't open properly to allow food to enter your stomach. Instead, food backs up into the esophagus, causing pain.
  • Gallbladder or pancreas problems. Gallstones or inflammation of your gallbladder (cholecystitis) or pancreas can cause acute abdominal pain that radiates to your chest.

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Other causes:

  • Musculoskeletal causes:

    • Costochondritis. In this condition — also known as Tietze syndrome — the cartilage of your rib cage, particularly the cartilage that joins your ribs to your breastbone, becomes inflamed. The result is chest pain, often worsened when you push on your sternum or on the ribs near your sternum.
    • Sore muscles. Chronic pain syndromes, such as fibromyalgia, can produce persistent muscle-related chest pain.
    • Injured ribs or pinched nerves. A bruised or broken rib, as well as a pinched nerve, can cause chest pain.
  • Panic attack. If you experience periods of intense fear accompanied by chest pain, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing (hyperventilation), profuse sweating and shortness of breath, you may be experiencing a panic attack — a form of anxiety.

It can be difficult to distinguish symptoms due to a heart problem vs. stress and/or anxiety. Often these two issues are interrelated. Both can cause chest pains, shortness of breath, palpitations, light-headedness and other symptoms. To  determine whether your heart is okay, it generally takes a full cardiac evaluation. Sometimes patients have had their symptoms attributed to anxiety when instead there is an issue with their heart. Other times, their heart is fine and their symptoms are due to stress/anxiety. It is a physician's job to sort this out.

  • Shingles. This infection of the nerves caused by the chickenpox virus can produce pain and a band of blisters from your back around to your chest wall.
  • Cancer. Rarely, cancer involving the chest or cancer that has spread from another part of the body can cause chest pain.

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