Many factors can cause chest pain, including physical issues like heart disease or infection and psychological issues like chronic stress. Chest pain that involves the heart or lungs can be very serious and even life-threatening. Any chest pain should be evaluated by a doctor to determine the cause and to have appropriate treatment as soon as possible.
Angina is a type of chest pain that occurs when the blood supply to the heart is interrupted or blocked, usually as a result of atherosclerosis, a condition that occurs when plaques build up along artery walls. The pain experienced during angina is a signal the heart is in distress. Even though it may resolve relatively quickly, angina is a serious event and should always be reported to the doctor.
While chest pain can be a symptom of a heart attack, other symptoms include pain in the neck, arms, shoulders, abdomen or jaw, a pressure in the chest, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue and sweating. Women and men tend to experience heart attacks in different ways, so knowing all the symptoms is important to ensure treatment is provided as soon as possible.
Diagnosis starts with a physical exam and a complete medical history to look for risk factors for heart disease and other problems that can cause chest pain. Diagnostic imaging tests like x-ray or ultrasound may be used to evaluate the heart's structure and function. Blood tests may also be used in the immediate aftermath of pain to look for a chemical released during a heart attack, and a minimally-invasive procedure called catheterization may also be performed to look inside the arteries and look for blockages.
Treatment will depend on the cause of the pain. Some types of pain can be treated with medication, while other causes may require surgery, including minimally-invasive options.
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