Pain is a sensation that all of us experience several times in life, from the time we are born. It may be due to a minor injury, a strained muscle or some underlying disease. And the location of pain often correlates with the area that is under distress. However, there are few types of localized pain that elicits as much fear as chest pain. Is it a heart attack? This is one of the first thoughts that goes through the mind of most adults whether they are in their early 20s or late 60s. And rightfully so. In this day and age of prevalent heart disease across the globe, a heart attack is a reality even for a person in their twenties.
When is it cardiac pain?
There are some warning signs that chest pain is most likely related to a heart problem. Heart pain, more correctly referred to as cardiac pain, is usually accompanied by other symptoms and has a typical pattern and nature that makes it stand out from other causes of chest pain. As a general rule, chest pain is more likely to be heart pain if it occurs in a smoker, in a person over 40 years of age, who has a history of heart disease and is experiencing episodes of cardiac chest pain known as angina pectoris. However, this can be misleading at times as a person who is not considered to be typically at risk may have heart disease.
Centrally Located Chest Pain
Cardiac pain is often centralized. This means that it is felt in the center of the chest and sometimes slightly to the left. It is not typically felt on the sides of the chest and this may instead be muscular pain. However, cardiac chest pain can radiate from the center to the sides of the chest and even up to the neck and jaw.
Dizziness and Pain
Cardiac chest pain is often accompanied by dizziness.Pain that accompanies any disturbance of the heart function means that the brain may not be receiving enough oxygen-rich blood. Brain tissue is very sensitive and any changes in oxygen and glucose levels can lead to various symptoms within just a few minutes. Dizziness is often the first of these symptoms.
Profuse sweating that does not correlate with the temperature in the environment may be a sign of heart problems. This type of sweating starts suddenly and occurs along with chest pain. It is most obvious during a heart attack where portions of the heart muscle die due to insufficient oxygen supply. Other types of cardiac pain may not present as significantly with excessive sweating.
Left Arm Pain
The chest pain due to a heart problems often radiates to the left arm. In some cases left arm pain is the only symptoms of a heart problem even when there is no chest pain. This arises since the heart is located slightly to the left in the chest cavity. However, this does not mean that there will be right arm pain as well, along with the chest pain.
Paleness and Fainting
As the heart function is disrupted, less oxygen reaches the tissues of the body. This may be seen as paleness of the skin and a person may even faint. The body also elicits secondary mechanisms to try to increase heart function and the secretion of certain ’emergency’ hormones can also cause paleness of the skin and fainting.
Antacids Do Not Help
Chest pain due to acid reflux known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can present with may of the same symptoms. While it does cause a typical heartburn (burning chest pain), it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between acid reflux pain and cardiac pain. In fact many emergency room visits for cardiac pain is just acid reflux and not a heart problem. Antacids will provide relief in these cases but if it is a heart problem then an antacid will not ease the pain.