The causes of chest pain vary greatly. In some instances, medical care is necessary but not urgent. However, there are instances in which urgent medical treatment will be the difference between life and death.
Knowing the difference will depend mainly on the symptoms the patient is experiencing. However, it is always wise to err on the side of caution. Chest pain is not normal. So its causes ultimately need to be investigated.
When to seek emergency treatment:
If you have been injured in a fall, accident and report chest pain that is constant and worsening, emergency medical care should be sought. There may be internal bleeding which can be potentially life-threatening. Such internal bleeding must be treated as soon as possible. The heart and its arteries may have been injured or ruptured. It is also possible that the ribs may be broken. They could, in turn, pierce the lung resulting in a collapsed lung.
If the patient reports some or all of the following symptoms, it is likely that he/she is experiencing a heart attack and needs immediate emergency treatment.
a. Pain in the chest radiating to the arm, neck or jaw.
b. Pressure on the chest, especially on the left-hand side.
c. Breathing difficulties.
f. Irregular pulse and heartbeat.
With prompt emergency medical care, the odds of surviving a heart attack are relatively good.
If the patient has a history of heart problems, angina, hypertension (high blood pressure), or any other heart-related conditions seek treatment immediately. If the patient has recently changed the medication used for a heart condition or has for whatever reason stopped taking his/her medication, emergency treatment should be sought. Even a family history of these conditions should be considered a factor when deciding to seek emergency treatment. An episode of chest pain might be an initial occurrence of a hereditary disease.
When to seek treatment from your doctor: Persistence and severity of symptoms
If the patient is experiencing chest pain but does not meet the criteria above, medical treatment from a doctor is still necessary. In the following circumstances, the patient needs to consult a doctor:
a. Heart palpitations.
b. Light-headedness and dizziness.
c. Extreme fatigue.
d. High levels of anxiety.
e. A heart murmur diagnosed by a healthcare professional
If any symptoms persist for longer than two days, it is essential to consult a doctor.
Illness and digestive disorders
If the patient is experiencing chest pain together with fever, coughing up any substance and difficulty breathing, consultation with a doctor is recommended. Fever is an indication of an infection which will require treatment and is dangerous left untreated.
Patients experiencing heartburn will feel chest pain. Heartburn needs to be treated by a healthcare professional. Heartburn is characterized by a burning sensation just above the stomach. It occurs intermittently, usually before, during and after eating. Temporary relief is obtained with the use of antacids.
The Service offers health, fitness and nutritional information and is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.