There are many types of, and reasons for, chest pain. Chest pain can be sharp and stabbing, dull and aching, or even burning or crushing. At times, chest pain radiates into the neck, shoulder, back or jaw, or down the arms. Although it can be the result of injury or disease, the most life-threatening conditions causing chest pain involve the lungs or the heart.
Causes of Chest Pain
All chest pain should be medically evaluated, since some chest pain requires urgent medical, or even surgical, intervention.
Digestive Causes of Chest Pain
Some chest pain is caused by digestive problems of varying degrees of seriousness:
- Heartburn or acid reflux
- Swallowing disorders
Disorders of the gallbladder or pancreas may also present with chest pain.
Heart-Related Causes of Chest Pain
There are a variety of heart-related causes, including the following, for chest pain:
- Heart attack
- Aortic dissection
If a heart-related cause of chest pain is found, further testing must be performed to determine what treatment is necessary.
Lung-Related Causes of Chest Pain
In many cases, chest pain is caused by the following lung conditions and diseases:
- Pleurisy, pneumonia or bronchitis
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Pulmonary embolism (clot in lung)
- Pneumothorax (collapsed lung)
When the underlying causes of chest pain are lung-related, breathing tests are performed. The patient may require administration of oxygen, medications to assist breathing, or surgical intervention.
Other Causes of Chest Pain
Chest pain has numerous other causes, some related to injuries, and others to localized or systemic diseases:
- Costochondritis (inflammation of rib-cage cartilage)
- Bruised or broken ribs
- Sore muscles
- Chronic pain syndrome or fibromyalgia
Shingles can also be a cause of chest pain.
Medical evaluations of chest pain, which usually take place in an emergency room, test first for its most-serious possible causes; this allows life-threatening conditions to be treated or ruled out as quickly as possible.
Dizziness, a common complaint, encompasses a variety of sensations, and can occur for a variety of reasons. Although dizziness can have a benign cause, such as standing up quickly from a prone position, it can be a symptom of a serious disorder, such as a stroke. In order to determine causation, it is important to note the onset of dizziness, the particular sensation experienced, any concomitant symptoms, and the duration or recurrence of the episode.
Types of Dizziness
There are different types of dizziness. Because dizziness can result from disorders in many different parts of the body, its cause is partially traced by specific symptoms.
The sensation of spinning known as vertigo may result from the following:
- Change of position
- Inner-ear inflammation
- Meniere's disease
- Vestibular migraine
- Acoustic neuroma
Vertigo is often accompanied by nausea and vomiting, and problems with balance.
Feeling faint (lightheaded) can be accompanied by nausea, paleness and clamminess. Most often, it is caused by either a drop in blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension), or inadequate blood output from the heart as a result of cardiomyopathy or arrhythmia.
Disequilibrium, the sense of being off balance, may cause an unsteady gait, and the feeling of being about to fall. It can be caused by the following:
- Inner-ear problems
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Muscle weakness or osteoarthritis
- Neurological conditions
- Side effects of sedatives or tranquilizers
Disequilibrium may be exacerbated by darkness.
Floating, Swimming or Spaciness
More-vague sensations of dizziness include a feeling of floating or swimming, or a sense of being disconnected or "spaced out." Assuming other causes have been ruled out, these sensations may be caused by the following:
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Dehydration or being overheated
Depending on the patient's symptoms and a complete examination, the doctor is usually able to trace and treat dizziness's cause, whether it is benign or serious.
Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath is a symptom with a great many possible causes. When patients experience shortness of breath, they feel as if they cannot take in enough air. This difficulty in breathing may be caused by myriad conditions, some relatively benign and some life-threatening. Serious cardiological reasons for shortness of breath include heart attack, cardiomyopathy, heart arrhythmia, congestive heart failure, cardiac tamponade and pericarditis.
Other possible causes of shortness of breath include overexertion, severe anxiety or panic attack, a blocked airway, reaction to environmental allergens or pollutants, lung disease, hypertension or hypotension, traumatic injury, and hormonal or enzyme imbalances. If shortness of breath is due to the congestion associated with an upper-respiratory infection, it usually resolves on its own in a matter of days, though bacterial infections may require the administration of an antibiotic. Obesity can be an exacerbating factor in shortness of breath.
Shortness of breath accompanied by any of the following symptoms demands immediate attention:
- Coughing or wheezing
- Fainting or loss of consciousness
- Chest pain
- Heart irregularities
- Digestive issues or back pain
While occasional, explicable bouts of shortness of breath are normal, when they are intense, prolonged or recurrent, their root causes can only be determined through comprehensive medical examination.