When people get chest pain they often immediately think of their heart. Heart causes of chest pain are the most important to diagnose, so it’s important if you do have chest pain that you come for assessment so we can reach the correct diagnosis, but are all chest pains a result of heart disease? NO!
Non-cardiac chest pain is a medical term used to describe chest pains that are not caused by heart disease. One of the most common causes is muscular type pains, but what are the other causes?
Multiple conditions can cause non-cardiac chest pains. These may include pulmonary disorders (lung-related), gastrointestinal disorders (stomach related), or esophageal disorders (esophagus related).
GERD occurs when the stomach's acid flows back up the esophageal pipe (food pipe connecting the mouth to the stomach). When this happens, the acid irritates the lining of the esophageal pipe, leading to GERD. Heartburn, a GERD symptom, causes a sharp pain behind the breast bones; this leads to chest pain. Studies reveal that GERD is the main cause of non-cardiac chest pain.
Symptoms of GERD include chest pains, belching, heartburns, regurgitation of food. Patients with this disease also find it difficult to sleep. Smoking, late-night eating, eating fried foods, or drinking alcohol and coffee can cause GERD. Reducing or eliminating these habits can reduce the risk of getting symptoms.
When we eat, food passes through our food pipe to the stomach. A disorder in the movement of food from the mouth to the stomach causes esophageal motility disorders.
Symptoms include chest pains or burning sensations in the heart (heartburn). Esophageal motility disorders cause swallowing difficulty when food passes through the food pipe. Swallowing with difficulty causes sharp pain. Since the heart and the esophagus share a common nerve supply, the pain is felt in the chest region and this leads to chest pain.
Esophageal hypersensitivity occurs when a little change in pressure in the esophagus causes pain. Pressure change occurs when small amounts of stomach acid comes up into the food pipe (esophagus). The symptoms of this disease are similar to GERD. People with this disease experience intense chest pains and heartburns. Other symptoms include difficulty in swallowing food. Esophageal hypersensitivity is much more common in women.
Sometimes the tight pain you feel in your chest isn't a result of heart conditions. It could be a result of anxiety.
When you're anxious, you experience shortness of breath. Then the body system produces hormones that increase the blood pressure. The pressure leads to an increase in the force of the heartbeat in the chest region. Combined with the tight muscles of your chest, it can lead to sharp pains in the chest. Studies reveal that one out of four people experiences chest pains due to panic disorders. Symptoms of anxiety-related chest pains differ in individuals. While some may experience sharp pains, others experience constant tight pains in the chest. Other symptoms include constant chest aches or tightness around the chest region.
Pulmonary embolism occurs when one of the arteries in the lungs gets blocked. The clot blocks the blood going back to the lungs, which can lead to loss of life. Symptoms of pulmonary embolism include a short sharp pain in the chest, shortness of breath, or fever. You feel the chest pain when you breathe inwardly or when you cough.
If you feel chest pain you must visit your heart doctor. Our job as cardiologists is to work out what the cause of your chest pain is. The frightening symptoms of chest pains might not mean the presence of heart disease. Once your cardiologist confirms the absence of heart disease, he/she may direct you to a gastroenterologist (a doctor who specializes in treating stomach disorders) for their opinion.