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Case Studies

Pick up the clues: CHEST PAIN

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Last week, my friend’s husband, a young and healthy adult of around 40, complained of severe chest pain. Unfortunately, he collapsed on the way to hospital. A patient of sudden heart attack, who could probably have been saved had he reached the hospital on time. Studies reveal that heart attacks are rising rapidly among young adults in India, due to a predominant sedentary lifestyle along with early onset of diabetes and hypertension.

So, all of us might have experienced some sort of chest pain or discomfort in our lifetime and have majorly survived through it. That’s because it’s not always fatal or dangerous. It can be caused due to a myriad of reasons arising from the heart, lungs, stomach or food pipe/oesophagus, muscles, bones, nerves etc.

And having an insight of the reasons and information about symptoms can help avoid anxiety and speed up action when necessary. 

1. HEART: Lets first address the elephant in the room, the heart and the arising heart attack. The pain in this case typically lasts for 10-20 minutes. Characteristics of pain that would point towards it include-

a. Pain radiating to the arms or shoulders, sometimes neck, mouth and teeth.

b. Pain associated with exercise/stress/heavy meal.

c. Pain accompanied by sweating

d. Pain with nausea or vomiting

e. Pain that feels like heaviness, pressure or squeezing

Patients belonging to this category experience chest pain as the heart is not able to get enough oxygen/blood for its functioning. This happens mostly in patients suffering from atherosclerosis, a condition where the vessels are narrowed due to deposition of fats in their walls. Some people grow extra muscles in their heart due to a genetic disease, called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This too leads to compromised blood flow resulting in chest pain, accompanied by dizziness and fainting. Another deadly condition, called aortic dissection also presents with chest pain. But this type has a tearing or ripping sensation like a knife. Infection of the sac that covers the heart, a condition called as pericarditis, also leads to chest pain, which is sharp and may last from hours to days.

2. LUNGS: The next common organ that causes chest pain is lungs. Infection of the sac surrounding lungs, Pleuritis, causes chest pain, that is sharp and knifelike. And it typically increases with breathing and coughing. Lung infection/ pneumonia also presents with chest pain that is typically accompanied by fever and chills. Sometimes, lodging of blood clots in the vessels of lungs i.e. Pulmonary embolism also causes chest pain. This pain is associated with painful and difficult breathing, as well as a drop in blood pressure. Asthma, a common allergic condition of the respiratory tract also causes chest pain with shortness of breath and coughing. 

3. GIT: Next in the list is stomach or food pipe. One of the closest mimics of heart attack is pain due to acid reflux. Acid reflux i.e. tendency of food to come back from stomach into throat, causes deep burning discomfort in chest that is typically increased on lying down and peaks early morning when the stomach is empty. Ulcers in esophagus and stomach also cause burning and chest pain, but are accompanied by abdominal pain. These conditions are common in alcoholics and smokers. Certain diseases of the esophagus like esophageal spasm cause unregulated contractions of the esophagus, resulting in chest pain.

4. EMOTIONAL: One less known, but common cause of chest pain is emotional or psychological anxiety. In a stressful situation, the patient may also feel dizzy with shortness of breath and palpitations. A history of depression and mood swings along with a recent traumatic/stressful event can highlight the emotional cause.

5. MISCELLANEOUS: Following these are miscellaneous other less common causes like muscular pain, pain due to rib bone fractures and diseases of the gallbladder and pancreas.  

Summarizing it, you yourself are the best judge of what is happening with your body. Do not ignore your symptoms and speak to your doctor or visit the best path lab in Delhi for early diagnosis

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