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Chest pain is a symptom, which may appear due to various disorders. It usually indicates those serious ones and is considered as an emergency state, thus it cannot be neglected. Although it is frequently caused by a heart disorder, it may appear due to gastrointestinal, muscle, or lungs related problems as well. This type of pain can also be present with different variations of its intensity, localization and duration. The most common source of chest pain in case of adults include coronary artery disease, whereas in children, it is frequently caused by musculoskeletal or congenital disorders.
There are over 400 possible causes of chest pain, among which either non-serious or life-threatening conditions can be found. The most common ones include disorders associated with gastrointestinal tract and cardiovascular system.
Causes of chest pain related to heart disorders include:
- Coronary artery disease (CAD) – a group of ailments, which is comprised out of stable angina, unstable angina, sudden cardiac death and myocardial infraction (heart attack). In this type of disease, the pain can also spread on arms, back or even neck.
- Myocarditis – which is an inflammation of the heart and can be mistakenly linked with heart attack, since they share similar symptoms.
- Cardiac arrhythmia – simply known as irregular heartbeat. What is interesting, many of those incidents occur without any symptoms and signs, but if they eventually appear, chest pain is one of them.
This type of ailment can also be caused by gastrointestinal tract disorders. What is more, some studies shows, that chest pain occurs more frequently due to gastrointestinal disorders rather than to cardiovascular ones. However, this proportion may depend on few factors, such as region, age group or ethnicity.
The most common causes of chest pain associated with gastrointestinal tract include:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – simply known as acid reflux, during which stomach contents are coming up into the esophagus. This condition may also lead to a heartburn.
- Boerhaave syndrome – also called esophageal rupture. It may appear due to e.g. excessive pressure during vomiting.
- Hiatus hernia – which is a dislocation of the upper part of stomach. It usually do not cause any symptoms. However if they eventually appear, chest pain is one of them.
Chest pain is usually accompanied by other symptoms and signs, which obviously depend on the underlying disease. Without them, a specialist would not be able to recognize the exact cause. One of the most frequent ones include:
- Shortness of breath
- Swallowing difficulties
When to see a doctor
This particular type of pain is usually indicating a serious disorder, thus it should not be neglected. Reaction time is very important, since chest pain is strongly linked with circulatory system disorders. Those disorders are one of the leading causes of deaths globally, that is why immediate intervention is crucial if one of those features appear:
- Sudden onset of chest pain or crushing-like sensation, which last longer than 15 minutes or is constantly reappearing.
- Pain which radiates to the back, jaw and left arm
- Breathing difficulties
- Very fast or slow heart rate