Angina, also known as chest pain, occurs when the heart does not receive enough oxygen due to disease in the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart.

Many people with chest pain fear a heart attack. However, there are many possible causes of chest pain. Some causes are mildly inconvenient, while other causes are serious, even life-threatening. Any organ or tissue in your chest can be the source of pain, including your heart, lungs, esophagus, muscles, ribs, tendons or nerves.

Common causes:

Heart problems that can cause chest pain:

  • Angina is a type of heart-related chest pain. This pain occurs because your heart is not getting enough blood and oxygen. The most common symptom is chest pain that occurs behind the breast bone or slightly to the left of it. It may feel like tightness, heavy pressure, squeezing or crushing pain. The pain may spread to the arm, shoulder, jaw or back.

  • Heart attack pain can be similar to the pain of unstable angina, but more severe.

  • Aortic dissection causes sudden, severe pain in the chest and upper back.

  • Inflammation or infection in the tissue around the heart (pericarditis) causes pain in the center part of the chest.

Lung problems that can cause chest pain:

  • Pneumonia, which causes chest pain that usually feels sharp, and often gets worse when you take a deep breath or cough.

  • A blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism ), collapse of a small area of the lung (pneumothorax), or inflammation of the lining around the lung (pleurisy) can cause chest pain that usually feels sharp, and often gets worse when you take a deep breath or cough.

  • Asthma, which generally also causes shortness of breath, wheezing or coughing.

Other causes of chest pain:

  • Strain or inflammation of the muscles and tendons between the ribs.

  • Inflammation where the ribs join the breast bone or sternum (costochondritis).

  • Shingles (sharp, tingling pain on one side that stretches from the chest to the back).

  • Anxiety and rapid breathing.

Chest pain can also be related to the following digestive system problems:

  • Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD).

  • Stomach ulcer (burning pain occurs if your stomach is empty and feels better when you eat food).

  • Gallbladder (pain often gets worse after a meal, especially a fatty meal).

Call 911 if:

  • You have sudden crushing, squeezing, tightening or pressure in your chest.

  • Pain radiates to your jaw, left arm, or between your shoulder blades.

  • You have nausea, dizziness, sweating, a racing heart, or shortness of breath.

  • You know you have angina and your chest discomfort is suddenly more intense,
    brought on by lighter activity, or lasts longer than usual.

  • Your angina symptoms occur at rest.

  • You have sudden sharp chest pain with shortness of breath, especially after a long trip, a stretch of bedrest (for example, following an operation), or other lack of movement that can lead to a blood clot in your leg.

Texas Health is committed to providing quality care to heart and vascular patients throughout North Texas and beyond. While various technologies and services are discussed here, not all of our hospitals offer every treatment and diagnostic technology highlighted. Call 1-877-THR-WELL to learn more about heart and vascular services at a Texas Health hospital near you.

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