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What's Causing My Chest Pain?

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Chest Pain Causes: Lung Problems

Problems with the lungs can cause a variety of types of chest pain. These are common causes of chest pain:

Pleuritis. Also known as pleurisy, this condition is an inflammation or irritation of the lining of the lungs and chest. You likely feel a sharp pain when you breathe, cough, or sneeze. The most common causes of pleuritic chest pain are bacterial or viral infections, pulmonary embolism, and pneumothorax. Other less common causes include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and cancer.

Pneumoniaor lung abscess. These lung infections can cause pleuritic and other types of chest pain, such as a deep chest ache. Pneumonia often comes on suddenly, causing fever, chills, cough, and pus coughed up from the respiratory tract.

Pulmonary embolism. When a blood clot travels through the bloodstream and lodges in the lungs, this can cause acute pleuritis, trouble breathing, and a rapid heartbeat. It may also cause fever and shock. Pulmonary embolism is more likely following deep vein thrombosis or after being immobile for several days following surgery.

Pneumothorax. Often caused by an injury to the chest, pneumothorax occurs when a part of the lung collapses, releasing air into the chest cavity. This can also cause pain that gets worse when you breathe, as well as other symptoms, such as low blood pressure.

Pulmonary hypertension. With chest pain resembling that of angina, this abnormally high blood pressure in the lung arteries makes the right side of the heart work too hard.

Asthma. Causing shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and sometimes chest pain, asthma is an inflammatory disorder of the airways.

Chest Pain Causes: Gastrointestinal Problems

Gastrointestinal problems can also cause chest pain and include:

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Also known as acid reflux, GERD occurs when stomach contents move back into the throat. This may cause a sour taste in the mouth and a burning sensation in the chest or throat, known as heartburn. Factors that may trigger acid reflux include obesity, smoking, pregnancy, and spicy or fatty foods. Heart pain and heartburn from acid reflux feel similar partly because the heart and esophagus are located close to each other and share a nerve network.

Esophageal contraction disorders. Uncoordinated muscle contractions (spasms) and high-pressure contractions (nutcracker esophagus) are problems in the esophagus that can cause chest pain.

Esophageal hypersensitivity. This occurs when the esophagus becomes very painful at the smallest change in pressure or exposure to acid. The cause of this sensitivity is unknown.

Esophageal rupture. A sudden, severe chest pain following vomiting or a procedure involving the esophagus may be the sign of a rupture in the esophagus. 

Peptic ulcers. A vague recurring discomfort may be the result of these painful sores in the lining of the stomach or first part of the small intestine. More common in people who smoke, drink a lot of alcohol, or take pain-killers such as aspirin or NSAID’s, the pain often gets better when you eat or take antacids.

Hiatal hernia. This common problem occurs when the top of the stomach pushes into the lower chest after eating. The pain tends to get worse when you lie down.

Pancreatitis. You may have pancreatitis if you have pain in the lower chest that is often worse when you lie flat and better when you lean forward.

Gallbladderproblems. After eating a fatty meal, do you have a sensation of fullness or pain in your right lower chest area or the right upper side of your abdomen? If so, your chest pain may due to a gallbladder problem.

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