Chest Pains Deserve Attention and Action

Sharp pains or dull aches are nothing to ignore. They could be your body warning a heart attack is coming–fast. Don’t discount your discomfort as indigestion or anxiety. When in doubt, seek emergency care.

A National Center for Health Statistics study between December 2016 and December 2017 reported chest pains and related causes accounted for 6.5 million annual visits to emergency departments. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 805,000 Americans have heart attacks every year–about 605,000 for the first time.  In fact, the CDC says someone in America experiences a heart attack every 40 seconds. A heart attack results from blocked blood flow, often a blood clot, to the heart muscle.

Seek emergency help right away for new and unexplained chest pains. Besides heart attacks, here are some other heart problems to consider:

  • Pericarditis – Pericarditis often presents as sharp pain and worsens when a patient lies down or breathes in. It’s caused by inflammation of the two layers of sac-like tissue around the heart. Swelling in the stomach and legs, as well as low blood pressure, are signs of severe pericarditis.
  • Angina – Angina happens when the heart muscle doesn’t receive enough oxygen-rich blood. Patients experience pressure or squeezed feelings in the chest, as well as the neck, jaw, shoulders, arms or back. Pain often comes when performing strenuous activities. The pain may feel like indigestion, but angina is often a symptom of coronary heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.
  • Aortic dissection  This is a life-threatening condition in which the inner layers of the aorta (the main artery leading from the heart) separate and blood is forced between the layers, which can cause the aorta to rupture.

Chest pain also can be related to lung- and breathing-related issues, too, including:

  • Pleurisy, aka pleuritis – Pleurisy is inflammation of the lining of the lungs and chest. It causes sharp pains when patients breath, sneeze or cough. The inflammation is caused by viral or bacterial or infections or a pulmonary embolism. Lupus, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis may cause pleurisy.
  • Pulmonary embolism – It’s a blood clot in one of the lungs. Chest pains come on suddenly, coupled with difficulty breathing., a website hosted by Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, reports those at highest risk are people who recently underwent surgery, those with a blood-clotting disorder, people with cancer, and those who take oral contraceptives.
  • Pancreas and gallbladder problems  Inflammation of the gallbladder or pancreas–or gallstones–can cause abdominal pain that moves to the chest.
  • Pneumonia – Those with pneumonia experience coughs with phlegm and difficulty breathing. Pneumonia is a serious illness that can be life-threatening.

Please visit the CDC’s website for more information about the causes and treatment options for chest pains.

If you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of a heart condition, it is important to seek medical advice immediately. If you feel your condition is a true emergency, call 911.

Bayfront Health ER & Urgent Care is the only location in Cape Coral that offers emergency and urgent care services under one roof. Patients are only billed for the level of services they need. Bayfront Health ER & Urgent Care’s emergency room is open 24 hours a day, every day and the urgent care center is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.