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Chest Pains Could Be The Only Warning of a Medical Emergency

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Chest Pains Could Be The Only Warning of a Medical Emergency

Sharp pains or dull aches could be nothing but a little discomfort. But they could also be your body giving a warning that a medical emergency is happening. What you think is just a little heartburn or indigestion could be a heart attack or a pulmonary embolism – two deadly medical conditions. 

Chest pains send millions of patients to emergency departments each year. A National Center for Health Statistics study between December 2016 and December 2017 found chest pains and related causes accounted for 6.5 million annual visits; stomach and abdominal pain issues topped the list. NCHS is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The government’s research didn’t include information from urgent care centers and freestanding emergency departments. Imagine how many visits that add to the total, especially given the CDC reports every year about 805,000 Americans have heart attacks, about 605,000 for the first time. A heart attack results from blocked blood flow, often a blood clot, to the heart muscle. 

Seek emergency help right away for new and unexplained chest pains. Besides heart attacks, here are some other heart problems to consider: 

  • Angina – The chest pain or discomfort of angina is caused by a lack of oxygen-rich blood. Pressure or squeezing happens in the chest, as well as the neck, jaw, shoulders arms, or back. Pain often comes when performing strenuous activities. The pain may feel like indigestion; however, angina is often a symptom of coronary heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.  

  • Pericarditis – Pericarditis often shows as sharp pain and worsens when a patient lies down or breathes in. It’s inflammation of the two layers of sac-like tissue around the heart. Swelling in the stomach and legs, as well as low blood pressure, are all signs of severe cases. 

  • Aortic dissection – This is a life-threatening condition. When the inner layers of the aorta – the main artery leading from the heart – separate and blood is forced between the layers, it can cause the aorta to rupture. 

There also are lung- and breathing-related causes, including: 

  • Pleurisy, aka pleuritis – Inflammation of the lining of the lungs and chest. It causes sharp pains when patients breathe, cough or sneeze. The inflammation is caused by viral or bacterial or infections or a pulmonary embolism. Lupus, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis cause pleurisy. 

  • Pulmonary embolism – It’s a blood clot in one of the lungs, and chest pains come on suddenly coupled with difficulty breathing., the informational website hosted by the nonprofit Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, states those at highest risk are people who recently had surgery, a blood-clotting disorder, cancer, or who take oral contraceptives. 

  • Pancreas and gallbladder problems – Inflammation of the gallbladder or pancreas or gallstones cause abdominal pain that moves to the chest.  

  • Pneumonia – Symptoms of pneumonia include cough with phlegm and difficulty breathing. Don’t underestimate the seriousness of pneumonia; it can be deadly. 

Someone in America experiences a heart attack every 40 seconds, according to the CDC. Seek medical attention quickly. 

Please visit the CDC’s website for more information about the causes and treatment options for chest pains.  

Baptist Emergency Room & Urgent Care's emergency room is open 24/7, and urgent care is available from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. Appointments are unnecessary - walk in, and our healthcare professionals are ready to help at both of our locations.

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Baptist Emergency Room & Urgent Care is comprised of board-certified ER-trained physicians and professionally trained ER nurses who deliver quality medical care. Our urgent care and emergency room can effectively treat various medical conditions. From fever to fractures, allergies to abdominal pain, and colds to concussions, we have you covered with on-site labs, CT, X-rays, and ultrasound.