Chest pain is often described as discomfort or pain in chest or upper abdomen. Many people with chest pain fear a cardiac attack. However there are number of medical conditions other than cardiovascular diseases that may cause upper chest pain. The causes of chest pain fall into two major categories -- cardiac and non-cardiac causes.
- Angina: Angina is the chest pain or discomfort that occurs when there is decrease in supply of oxygen-rich blood to heart muscle. In most cases, the deficiency of blood supply is due to narrowing of coronary artery. Angina pain can be similar to the pain of cardiac attack.
- Heart attack: A heart attack occurs when blood supply to heart is interrupted by blocking of coronary artery. The main symptom is usually crushing pain in the centre of the chest which may spread to neck, jaw, arms and stomach. The pain may trigger during stressful event and unlike angina, this pain does not stop when the stressful event ends.
- Heart burn: Heart burn or pyrosis is caused by acidic fluid from the stomach washing up into the esophagus, just below the breast bone. The pain often rises in the chest and may spread to neck, throat or angle of the jaw.
- Panic attack or anxiety attack: Another common non-cardiac cause of chest pain is panic attack. Where it is common for people to rush to hospital believing that they are having heart attack. About 40 percent of people with panic attack experiences chest pain. Chest pain, during panic attack is caused due to muscle contractions of the chest wall.
- Pulmonary embolism: Another major cause of sudden, sharp chest pain is pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism is blockage of the pulmonary artery usually due to mobile blood clot. Pulmonary embolism usually occurs after a surgical procedure, particularly if the patient has been lying in the bed for several days.
- Pericarditis: Pericarditis is an inflammation of pericardium (a thin sac like membrane surrounding the heart). Pericarditis frequently causes characteristics chest pain and it shows unusual changes in cardiac cycle. The pain of pericarditis, however, is aggravated by deep breathing and is influenced by changes in body position.
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