Having chest pain can be scary, and most patients are immediately concerned about a possible heart attack—but are heart issues the most common cause of chest pain?
If you’re having chest pain, you should seek medical help right away because, unfortunately, heart problems and indigestion can feel very similar.
What different kinds of chest pain do people experience?
Heart attacks are often described as similar to a weight pressing down on the chest. Angina, in which the heart is not getting enough oxygen, is also described this way.
Pain involving the lungs is described as getting worse with inhalation.
Pain from the aorta, a large artery in the chest, is described as tearing.
Pain from the esophagus, the tube leading from the throat to the stomach, can be accompanied by vomiting blood or difficulty swallowing.
What tests can be done to diagnose chest pain?
Patients with new chest pain generally need to be seen in person. An electrocardiogram, or EKG, can be performed to show electricity moving through the heart. An EKG tells how long electricity takes to pass through each part of the heart, and whether each electrical signal repeats in a normal, regular rhythm. If any part of the heart is dead or scarred from an old heart attack or from not getting enough oxygen, the electricity will slow down. This information is expressed on a chart that specialists can read.
Another important test is the chest x-ray. This can show whether an infection (pneumonia) or other lung disorder such as a clot is causing the pain, and gives vital information on the size and shape of the heart.
A tube with a camera attached, called an endoscope, can be inserted by a GI (gastrointestinal) doctor so they can inspect the esophagus and stomach.
Still another diagnostic tool is a tiny camera in pill form that is swallowed by the patient, which sends photographs to a device worn on the patient’s belt.
How is chest pain treated?
Treatment for chest pain can range from a simple antacid or medication to slow down production of stomach acid, to surgery or cardiac catheter for clogged arteries or treatment of esophageal tears.
If the cause of your chronic pain has been documented, QuickMD can help you get your regular medications refilled—all through telemedicine—to avoid any possible gaps without these medications.