Skip to main content

How Do I Know If My Chest Pain Is Serious?

How Do I Know If My Chest Pain Is Serious?

Pain caused by heart disease may be mild or severe, dull or sharp, and remain constant or come-and-go. Heart attacks don’t cause the same type of pain for everyone. And did you know that you can have a silent heart attack (one that doesn’t cause symptoms)? Yes, it’s confusing.

At Memphis Vein Center, Kishore Arcot, MD, FACC, FSCAI, FSVM, RPVI, understands that the variables seem overwhelming and that chest pain is frightening. Here, he offers information to help you identify when your chest pain needs immediate care.

Even if you don’t need emergency attention, you should never ignore chest pain, because it’s the top sign of heart disease and heart attacks.

Non-cardiac conditions causing chest pain

When the pain isn’t caused by your heart, you may have:

These conditions often have signs that set them apart from heart disease.

Lung conditions typically cause pain that’s worse when breathing in or coughing. Acid reflux and ulcers usually feel worse after eating, while pulled muscles hurt more when you move. Gallstones cause sudden, intense pain in your upper right or center abdomen and right shoulder.

Panic attacks are well-known for mimicking a heart attack, but you should feel better within 10-30 minutes. If you’re not sure what’s happening, don’t hesitate to seek help. You should never wait a half hour to get treatment for a possible heart attack.

Heart disease and chest pain

Nearly every heart condition can cause chest pain, including:

These conditions may not need emergency care, but they definitely require prompt attention and treatment that slows or prevents progressive heart damage.

Five signs your chest pain needs medical attention

The following signs are red flags that your chest pain is a serious problem:

Your pain begins gradually and continues

Chest pain that develops slowly but lasts several minutes or longer usually signals a serious heart problem. Seek medical attention any time your chest pain doesn’t go away.

In contrast, a sharp or stabbing pain that quickly improves is more likely to be a problem other than your heart, or it’s a heart problem that doesn’t need emergency care. You should schedule an office appointment to rule out heart complications.

Your pain is severe or crushing and getting worse

Severe pain that keeps worsening demands emergency medical care because it’s a classic sign of a heart attack. Instead of pain, you may experience a tight feeling or crushing sensation like you have a heavy weight pressing on your chest.

Your pain doesn’t improve if you change positions

You won’t be able to find any position that eases your chest pain if you’re having a heart attack. Other causes of chest pain — like lung conditions — tend to improve when you lie down, sit up, or bend over.

Your chest pain doesn’t improve at rest

Pain that begins when you’re active and feels better at rest usually indicates you have a blocked artery (coronary artery disease). This is a serious condition because coronary artery disease is the top cause of heart attacks.

You need immediate medical care if your chest pain doesn’t improve when you stop exercising or take medication (if you’re under care for angina).

If your pain improves when you rest, schedule an appointment so we can examine your heart, treat the condition, and restore blood flow to your heart.

Your chest pain is accompanied by other symptoms

Chest pain that suddenly appears and is joined by any of the following symptoms signals a heart attack:

Heart attacks are known for causing pain in the center of your chest, but your pain may radiate to your jaw, neck, and left arm. You may also feel the pain in your upper back, shoulders, or upper abdomen.

Call 911 immediately if you have signs of a heart attack. If you have any questions about chest pain or need to schedule an appointment, call our Memphis, Tennessee, center or use our online tool today to request a visit.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Why You Should Never Neglect a Leg Ulcer

You should never ignore leg ulcers, because they won’t heal without treatment. They put you at risk of developing serious infections and even amputation. Keep reading to learn the signs that you should seek treatment.

5 Signs You May Have Pelvic Congestion Syndrome

Women who suffer from chronic pelvic pain seldom consider going to a vascular specialist. But you need a blood vessel expert when pelvic congestion syndrome is the cause of your pain. Seek help if you have signs of this painful condition.

The Dangers of DVT

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) develops in your legs, and from there, the blood clot can travel to your lungs and turn into a life-threatening condition. Here’s everything you need to know about DVT and the potential dangers it poses to your health.

The Link Between Diabetes and Leg Ulcers

Though diabetes is most often associated with foot ulcers, high blood sugar also causes vascular disease, which leads to leg ulcers. No matter where they’re located, ulcers need immediate medical care to prevent serious health complications.

Do My Varicose Veins Pose a Danger to My Health?

Varicose veins are definitely an unattractive, cosmetic problem, but do they also pose a danger to your health? The answer is yes. But most of the potential complications arise from the underlying condition that causes varicose veins.

How Coiling Can Treat Your Pelvic Congestion Syndrome

Did you know that many women with chronic pelvic pain have a condition called pelvic congestion syndrome? To find help, you need to consult a vascular specialist, learn if you have the condition, and discover how coiling can ease your pain.