What Causes Heart Pain?

Heart pain, also known as angina or chest pain, can be caused by various factors related to the heart and blood vessels. It is essential to note that chest pain can sometimes be a sign of a severe medical condition, such as a heart attack, and should never be ignored. If you experience chest pain, especially if it is severe or accompanied by other symptoms like shortness of breath, sweating, or nausea, seek immediate medical attention. Some common causes of heart pain include:

  • Angina: Angina is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when the heart muscle doesn’t receive enough oxygen-rich blood. It is often a symptom of coronary artery disease (CAD), which is caused by the narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart.
  • Heart attack: A heart attack occurs when there is a sudden, complete blockage of a coronary artery, leading to a lack of blood flow to a part of the heart muscle. This can cause severe and crushing chest pain, often radiating to the left arm, shoulder, jaw, or back.
  • Coronary artery spasm: In some cases, the coronary arteries can temporarily spasm and narrow, reducing blood flow to the heart muscle and causing chest pain.
  • Myocarditis: Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, which can lead to chest pain and other symptoms like fever and fatigue.
  • Pericarditis: Pericarditis is inflammation of the pericardium, the protective membrane surrounding the heart. It can cause sharp, stabbing chest pain that worsens with deep breathing or lying down.
  • Aortic dissection: Aortic dissection is a life-threatening condition where there is a tear in the inner layer of the aorta, the main artery carrying blood from the heart. This can cause severe chest pain described as “tearing” or “ripping.”
  • Valve disorders: Problems with the heart valves, such as aortic stenosis or mitral valve prolapse, can cause chest discomfort.
  • Pulmonary embolism: A pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot travels to the lungs, causing chest pain, difficulty breathing, and sometimes coughing up blood.
  • Gastrointestinal issues: Some gastrointestinal conditions, like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or gallbladder problems, can cause chest pain that may be mistaken for heart pain.
  • Anxiety and panic attacks: Emotional stress, anxiety, or panic attacks can lead to chest pain or discomfort.

Determining the exact cause of heart pain requires a thorough medical evaluation, including a physical examination, medical history review, and possibly diagnostic tests such as an electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG), stress tests, or cardiac imaging. If you experience chest pain, it is crucial to seek prompt medical attention to rule out any serious heart-related conditions and receive appropriate treatment.