When Does Chest Pain Require Medical Attention?
Posted by: Tampa Cardio
On: April 21, 2015
Experiencing chest pain can be startling and terrifying, especially when your imagination gets the best of you and you immediately assume the worse. And while chest pain is a symptom of an oncoming heart attack, it can also be a symptom of many other conditions – some serious, and some not so serious. But how do you know if your chest pain signifies a trip to the emergency room, or simply a trip to the medicine cabinet for some heartburn relief medicine?
Today, heart attacks kill more people each year in the United States than any other medical condition. Because people tend to immediately associate chest pain with a heart attack, they often times rush to the hospital unnecessarily to discover that they merely had indigestion. On the other hand, because true “heart pain” is oftentimes not actually experienced in the chest, and for some, is not even painful, some who actually are having a heart attack are completely unaware, and end up dying because they did not seek medical attention.
So how does one know when the sensations that they are feeling are signaling an oncoming heart attack? In terms of “chest pain” most heart attack survivors describe the sensation as less of an actual pain, so to speak, and more of tightness or heaviness around their upper body, usually focusing on the left side, though the exact location can be difficult for many to identify. The chest sensations associated with heart attacks are referred to in the medical world by their Latin name, angina pectoris.
And while chest pains are certainly the most well-known symptom of a heart attack, it’s extremely important to take note of other symptoms experienced. Those experiencing a heart attack may also experience shortness of breath, anxiety, excessive sweating, and nausea. Some may even experience no pain in their chest at all, but instead feel tenderness or discomfort in their arms, shoulders, neck, upper back, or jaws. This is because, as your heart muscles run out of oxygen during a heart attack, they begin to send out signals of pain through the nervous system, in turn causing confusion in the brain as to where exactly the pain is coming from.
Some patients may experience more atypical symptoms, such as pain on the right side of the body, pain that is sharp or burning, or even just a feeling of coldness in their chest, but what is particularly scary, is that around 1/3 of heart attack patients report having experienced no pain at all. For this reason, it’s wise to be aware of any current risk factors in your life, such as your age, genetics, and whether or not you smoke cigarettes, and check in with your doctor regularly if you feel that you are at risk but are concerned about not experiencing any warning symptoms.
While no chest pain should be absolutely ignored, you can usually tell if your chest pain is not heart-related if:
- The pain is sharp and only lasts for a few seconds and worsens with deep breathing.
- The pain gets worse when you move or when you touch the area that is hurting.
- The pain’s location is easily pinpointed.
Prevention is always the best plan of action against the threat of heart attack. If you or someone you love is concerned about the potential risks, please contact the Tampa Cardiovascular Associates at (813) 975-2800 to ask questions or set up an appointment.
Posted by: Tampa Cardio