Recurrent chest pain occurs when the pains arise and decrease every few minutes or over several days. The underlying causes of chest pain may be mild or severe. Mild causes of chest pain may be acid reflux, while a more severe cause may point to a heart attack. It is important to recognize warning signs and look for accompanying symptoms or consult your doctor immediately.
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Recurrent chest pain may mean a heart problem, respiratory problem, or problems with digestion. Endeavor to quickly see your doctor if chest pain keeps persisting, deteriorates, or accompanies other symptoms.
Pain that lasts for weeks or months is not likely to be caused by a serious emergency. The condition may be related to the muscles or skeletal structure.
Heart problems are less likely to cause pain that:
- is calmed by taking medication
- lasts for only a few minutes
- goes away when taking a deep breath
- only affects a specific point on the chest
- eases after massaging the area of the chest
Causes of Recurrent Chest Pain
Most chest pains are recurrent. Even the pain of a heart attack may improve temporarily, then return. Below are common causes of chest pain:
An unexpected, intense pain in the chest may indicate a heart attack or cardiac arrest. This is caused by faulty electrical impulses or impasses that obstructs blood from reaching the heart. Some warning signs of a heart attack include:
- feeling of crushing pressure on the chest
- shortness of breath
- pain in the center of the chest
- pain that lasts longer than a few minutes
- pain that radiates to the shoulder, neck, arms, back, or jaw
- nausea and/or dizziness
Symptoms that are more typical to women includes, nausea and dizziness, shortness of breath, and back or jaw pain more frequently than men.
People more likely to have heart attacks are those who are diabetic, obese, or have a history of heart attacks.
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This condition is life-threatening. Pulmonary embolism is a blockage in a blood vessel that leads to the lungs. It mostly occurs when a blood clot has broken loose, often from the legs. A person may experience pain in the leg if he/she has a blood clot in a leg. Pulmonary embolisms causes extreme chest pain and shortness of breath.
Some gastrointestinal conditions such as acid reflux, ulcers, or gallstones, can lead to pain in the chest or near the ribs. Acid reflux causes chest pain to be more extreme shortly after a meal. It may be worse after consuming alcohol or fatty foods.
Angina is pain in the chest caused by shortage of blood supply to the heart. People with angina may feel pressure, tension, or a squeezing sensation in the chest. The pain may also radiate to the jaw.
Angina is usually a symptom of coronary heart disease (CHD), which occurs when the arteries get clogged. CHD is also a risk factor for a heart attack.
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In some cases, chest pain can be a symptom of a panic attack. The pain can be alike to that of a heart attack. Some people with panic attacks may feel as if they are dying.
Panic-related heart pain usually subside with deep breathing. They may last for only a few minutes in some cases.
Infections and pneumonia, which are common lung conditions, can lead to chest pain and shortness of breath. Anyone who suspects that they lung disorders should seek medical attention within 1–2 days.
Muscle pain caused by an injury or a chronic pain syndrome often triggers chest pain.
Symptoms of muscle pain may be:
- sharp or dull
- shooting or throbbing
- radiating outward or concentrated in one spot
If chest pain improves with massage or gets worse upon inhaling sharply, it is more likely to be muscle-related.
Mastitis is a very painful condition, it is an infection in breast tissue. Symptoms may include shooting or sharp pain in the chest or breasts, fever, and swelling.
Mastitis is common during breast-feeding. The infection may clear up on its own, though some people may take antibiotics or a hospital stay.
In some cases, chest pain may be caused by respiratory infections, especially when they also cause frequent coughing.
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After a respiratory infection, some people develop pleurisy (inflammation of the pleura). Pleura is the tissue that wraps around the outside of the lungs.
How to know a heart-related Chest Pain
It is always best to have a doctor check a chest pain since it is not always possible to self-diagnose the cause based on symptoms alone.
Chest pain is more likely to be heart-related if a person has:
- shortness of breath
- cardiovascular risk factors
- a history of heart disease
- pain that does not improve with massage or medication
- pain that deteriorates over time
When to see a doctor
A doctor should assess any recurring chest pain. Seek emergency medical care if the pain is:
- extreme and refuses to go away
- lasts more than a few minutes
- deteriorates gradually
- accompanied by shortness of breath, dizziness, or difficulty breathing
- accompanied by a squeezing or crushing sensation in the center of the chest
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