Chest Pain and Discomfort

Few symptoms are more alarming than chest pain. In the minds of many people, chest pain equals heart pain. And while many other conditions can cause chest pain, cardiac disease is so common - and so dangerous - that the symptom of chest pain should never be dismissed out of hand as being insignificant.

Pain or discomfort in the chest is often caused by heart problems, and so it is important for a doctor to take a clinical history and perform a physical examination to determine the appropriate diagnostic tests.

Angina is discomfort in the chest that occurs when the heart muscle does not receive enough oxygen or blood because of narrowings or blockages in the coronary arteries.

Typically a squeezing sensation around the chest, which patients describe as tightness, pressure or burning which comes on with physical exertion, emotional stress or anxiety. Sometimesthereis discomfort in theneck or upper abdomen, and thismay beassociated with pain in the jaw, head, or arms.

Stable angine comes on with exertion and eases with rest. Unstable angina describes increasing angina which starts when the patient is at rest and often persists. This is usually associated with sweating, nausea and malaise.

Pain or discomfort in the chest can be due to problems with heart, lungs, stomach, oesophagus or chest wall. Patients with suspected angina should be assessed by a cardiologist, who will arrange investigations to confirm or exclude heart problems and start the correct treatment.

Chest pain at rest that lasts for more than 15 minutes is a medical emergency that may be due to a heart attack, and patients should call an emergency ambulance.

Smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and a family hisotry of heart disease all increase the risk of an individual suffering from angina or a heart attack.

Chest Pain