Cardiothoracic Surgeon Questions Chest Pain

How can I tell if it's a heart attack or just a chest pain?

I keep having a slight pain around my chest. This pain keeps happening off and on and I am confused whether it is a cardiac issue or just a simple chest pain. Please advise.

5 Answers

Chest pain can be caused by many things - some life threatening like heart attack and some annoying but completely benign like pleurisy.
Typically, chest pain of a cardiac origin is described more as pressure (‘an elephant sitting on my chest’) and can also radiate to the arm or jaw, and may be more commonly induced by increased cardiac demand like exercise, anxiety or stress. Chest pain as a result of inflammatory conditions in the chest, such as pleurisy or costochondritis, is described as sharp and stabbing, is very short lived, and is induced by situations that increase intrathoracic pressure - deep breath, cough or sneeze.
There are many causes of chest pain, these include cardiac related, digestive cause such as reflux (heartburn), stomach or esophageal ulcers, esophageal motility problems, muscular or chest wall pain, lung problems, etc. Cardiac causes such as heart attack present as a heaviness or tightness that goes to your neck or arms and does not go away with anything, as we say in medicine, it is a pain that feels like "impending doom."
There can be many reasons for chest pain. The simple way for you to address this issue is to see a cardiologist who can take a good history, review your symptoms in detail, and order appropriate lab and other diagnostic tests as needed. Sometimes, chest pain related to the heart can be missed. Not good if that is the case.
Usually chest pain if related to exertion, it’s most likely to be cardiac.
Chest pain as described can be related to heart, esophageal spasm from gastric reflux or stomach ulcers. There is no way to determine the reason for the chest pain without testing. Chest pain should be investigated ASAP to rule out an active heart attack or the precursor to a heart attack. This is serious and could result in life long congestive heart failure and more importantly, death.