Although chest pain can be a warning sign of a heart attack, fortunately, this is not always the case. In fact, there could be a number of causes for chest wall discomfort. Some of these causes could be benign; while others could indicate serious conditions.
Chest pain on the left side is usually a symptom of angina pectoris or a non-cardiac condition called fibromyalgia. Angina is the term used to describe pain, pressure, heaviness or numbness that occurs behind the breastbone or across the chest. It is caused due to insufficient amount of oxygen reaching the heart muscle. A heart attack or myocardial infarction is caused by blocked blood flow to the heart muscle. The pain of a heart attack is usually more severe than angina, lasts longer and does not decrease with rest or by taking medication which might have been effective for angina. Other symptoms of a heart attack include sweating, nausea, shortness of breath, weakness, or indigestion.
Chest pain on the right side, however, is rarely due to a cardiovascular condition. Pain on this nature may be due to gallbladder problems and liver inflammation. Non-cardiac causes of chest pains such as pulled rib muscles or chest wall pains are comparatively common but even the slightest symptoms can indicate more life threatening conditions like pulmonary embolism or pneumonia. When the pain is localized in certain areas of the chest, it is easier to perform a self-diagnosis and take actions to prevent further damage before consulting a doctor.
Rib subluxation is one of the causes of right sided chest pain. This condition is signified by a slight displacement of the ribs, which in turn generates pain. The pain may radiate from the back around to the front and often worsens on deep breathing. In addition, leaning over constricts the chest leading to intensified pain. At times, this condition may not require immediate medical attention, as often even without doing anything the pain resolves over the course of 7 to10 days. However, if the pain tends to persist for a longer duration, then a physician needs to be consulted for further investigation.
Right side chest pain can also be indicative of liver inflammation or hepatitis. This usually occurs as a consequence of diseases attacking the liver. Hepatitis is segregated into two types with respect to the length of the disease. The first category is represented by acute hepatitis that lasts for less than six months; while the second category is of chronic hepatitis that lasts longer than six months. Hepatitis is usually caused by bacterial infections, alcohol and fungal toxins, metabolic disorders and viruses. This disease is diagnosed by means of a blood test and sometimes by taking a tissue sample from the liver.
Pain on the right side of the chest could also suggest gall bladder or pancreas dysfunction. The gall bladder and the pancreas are organs located in the upper abdominal region. Inflammation in these parts of the body may cause pain that radiates from the front to the back. The patient also may experience certain associated symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain and loss of appetite. The actual situation can only be evaluated by blood tests and ultrasound. Gallstones is a gallbladder condition where bile and cholesterol crystallizes, resulting in the inflammation of the gallbladder or cholecystitis. This is usually followed by sharp abdominal pains that ascend up to the chest during its acute stage. The pain is often steady, severe and leads to visible changes in an electrocardiogram. Gallstones may also trigger chest pains in someone who is already suffering from coronary heart disease and can produce recurring chest pain. Gallstones are also easily detected by ultrasound.
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