Friday, April 24, 2009

Healthscope Series: Understanding "Chest Pains"

By Maria Monica Abrenica

Chest pains are one of the most misdiagnosed symptoms in medicine and people immediately get alarmed when they experience the symptom and associate it with a fatal heart attack. This is the issue that the American College of Physicians (ACP) raises and seeks to promote heightened public awareness on. In order to deliver a greater understanding of chest pains, the ACP produced a 25-minute film, Chest Pains, as part of the Healthscope Series. Like earlier Healthscope films in the series, Chest Pains features real doctors with their patients in order to bring audiences accurate and understandable health information.

According to the ACP, many people are still unaware that experiencing chest pains does not necessarily signify a heart attack. There are a multitude of other conditions that cause chest pains, says ACP. They can be categorized as cardiac and non-cardiac causes and among them are the following:

Cardiac Causes

Angina. Cholesterol and other substances that build up in the arteries of the heart restrict blood flow. This causes recurrent episodes of chest pain—angina pectoris, or angina.

Pericarditis. Viral infections can cause inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart. This often causes short-lived chest pains.

Coronary Spasm. Coronary arteries, arteries that supply blood to the heart, temporarily restrict blood flow. This can be triggered by the intake of nicotine and caffeine and causes episodes of chest pains.

Non-cardiac Causes

Hiatal hernia. Chest pains may occur when the upper portion of the stomach protrudes into the chest cavity through an opening of the diaphragm called the esophageal hiatus

Heartburn. Stomach acid that washes up from the stomach into the esophagus can cause a painful, burning sensation behind the breastbone.

Panic attack. Experiencing intense fear can be accompanied by chest pains, rapid heartbeat, and rapid breathing or shortness of breath.

Lung conditions. A collapsed lung and high blood pressure in the arteries carrying blood to the lungs and asthma also can produce chest pain.

Sore muscles. Chronic pain syndromes can produce persistent muscle-related chest pain.
Injured ribs or pinched nerves. A bruised or broken rib, as well as a pinched nerve, can cause chest pains.

Gallbladder or pancreas problems. Gallstones or inflammation of the gallbladder or pancreas can cause acute abdominal pain that could include chest pains.

The American College of Physicians is a national organization of internists—physicians who specialize in the prevention, detection and treatment of illnesses in adults. ACP is the largest medical-specialty organization and second-largest physician group in the United States.

The Healthscope Series is a collection of films produced by the ACP to alert people about common and significant symptoms and to prompt them to seek appropriate medical attention. There are currently 12 films in the series today.

For more information:

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