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Chest pain is one of the most common reasons that people visit the emergency room. Chest pain varies depending on the person. It also varies in:
It may feel like a sharp, stabbing pain or a dull ache. It may be a sign of a serious heart-related problem, but it may also occur due to one of many common causes that aren’t life-threatening.
When you have chest pain, your first thought may be that you’re having a heart attack. While chest pain is a well-established sign of a heart attack, it can also be caused by many other less serious conditions. About 13 percent of all ER visits for chest pain result in a diagnosis of a serious heart-related problem.
The following are heart-related causes of chest pain:
The following are gastrointestinal causes of chest pain:
The following are lung-related causes of chest pain:
The following are causes of chest pain related to muscles or bones:
Shingles, an infection of the nerves and skin that occurs after reactivation of the chickenpox virus, can cause chest pain. You may develop pain along your back or chest before the shingles rash becomes apparent. Panic attacks, which are sudden episodes of intense fear when there’s no real danger or cause, can also cause chest pain.
You may have other symptoms that occur with chest pain. Identifying any symptoms you may be having can help your doctor make a diagnosis. These include:
While pain is the most common symptom of a heart problem, some people experience other symptoms, with or without chest pain. Women, in particular, have reported unusual symptoms that later have been identified as being due to a heart condition
Symptoms that may indicate your chest pain isn’t heart-related include:
Seek emergency treatment immediately if you think you may be having a heart attack and especially if your chest pain is new, unexplained, or lasts more than a few moments.
Your doctor will ask you questions. Your answers can help them 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.
Your doctor may order tests to help diagnose or eliminate heart-related problems as a cause of your chest pain. These may include:
Your doctor might treat chest pain with medication, noninvasive procedures, surgery, or a combination of these methods depending on the cause and severity of your chest pain.
Treatments for heart-related causes of chest pain include:
Treatments for other causes of chest pain include:
Your doctor can treat and resolve chest pain due to many common conditions, such as:
However, chest pain can also be a symptom of a life-threatening condition. Seek immediate medical treatment if you think you may be experiencing a heart attack or another heart problem. This can save your life. Once your doctor diagnoses you, they can recommend additional treatments to manage your condition.
Written by: Danielle Moores
Medically reviewed on: Apr 13, 2016: Tyler Walker, MD
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