Chest pain can be scary, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re having a heart attack. Here’s what else it could indicate.
Chest pain or discomfort is one of the symptoms people experience when they are having a heart attack, but it can also be a sign of something else. These questions can help you figure out whether your symptoms mean you should get immediate medical help or make an appointment with a doctor.
Do your symptoms appear after eating?
If you have overindulged or eaten greasy or spicy foods, you may experience a scorching feeling in your chest. This could be heartburn, which is a symptom of acid reflux and is caused by GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.
“30%-40% of patients presenting to ER with chest pain have chest pain due to acid reflux, or GERD,” says Caitlin Houghton, MD, a general surgeon at Keck Medicine of USC and assistant professor of clinical surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Although, “heartburn can be due to heart problems and should be checked by an ER or local doctor,” she adds.
Is your pain accompanied by a runny nose, coughing, sore throat and fever?
Acute bronchitis can make your chest ache, a pain that worsens if you have a hacking cough. The condition occurs when your bronchial tubes become inflamed. Mucus builds up, leading to shortness of breath and feeling like you have a cold.
Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs and ask you to rest and drink plenty of liquids to thin the mucus and keep your bronchial tubes lubricated. If symptoms continue longer than 10 days, consider getting a chest X-ray to determine whether your condition has turned into pneumonia or if there is another culprit causing your pain.
Do you have a rapid heart rate, fever, fatigue or trouble breathing?
Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle that produces symptoms resembling a heart attack. If you have these symptoms, seek medical help immediately.
Do you feel pressure in your chest and discomfort in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or back? Do you feel like you have indigestion?
Angina signals an underlying heart condition that can lead to a heart attack. Stable angina is triggered by emotional stress, smoking, heavy meals and extreme variances in temperature, all of which cause your heart to work harder.
This type of angina is episodic but controllable. Your doctor can help you understand and manage the condition.
Unstable angina is characterized by sudden chest pain or worsening or persistent chest discomfort that occurs during sleep or reduced physical activity. It is caused by a reduction in blood flow to the heart. This is a serious health issue that requires immediate medical attention.
Are you experiencing shortness of breath, nausea, arm pain, fatigue, profuse sweating or pale and clammy skin?
If you experience these symptoms for longer than five minutes and have no explanation for them, call 911. You could be having a heart attack.