Chest Pain

When should I seek urgent medical attention if I have chest pain?

Since many things can cause chest pain, both serious conditions and less serious conditions, it is vital to have any chest pain checked out by a doctor or medical specialist.
Although chest pain can be a sign of a heart attack, it can also be caused by a number of other things (see below). Of note, occasionally a heart attack occurs and there is no chest pain (this is more common with women, diabetes sufferers and people over 60 years of age).

If you have any of the following symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention or call an ambulance..

  • The chest pain is new to you or is severe
  • It lasts longer than 2 minutes
  • It becomes more severe with any physical activity, even going up stairs or walking
  • It is accompanied by shortness of breath

What can I do while I am waiting for the ambulance?

  • Sit or lie down
  • Take an aspirin unless you have specifically been told by your doctor not to
  • Do not be tempted to drive to the hospital

What are the causes of chest pain?

The most concerning possible cause is a heart attack, but there are other potential causes, such as...

  • Indigestion or reflux
  • Muscle pain or strain associated with exercise or unusual physical activity
  • Inflammation of rib joints (medical term - costochondritis)
  • Shingles (medical term - herpes zoster)
  • Arthritis
  • Chest injury
  • Chest surgery
  • Pneumonia
  • Blood clots in the lung
  • Psychological issues eg depression or panic disorder

Other heart problems may also cause chest pain, such as...

  • Angina - inadequate blood supply to the heart, often precipitatd by exercise or emotional stress
  • Infection near the heart
  • Weakening of the lining of the aorta (the large blood vessel in the chest)

If the doctor has found no serious underlying condition, how can I prevent a recurrence of chest pain?

  • Try to relax at home and sleep or rest if you feel tired
  • Gradually increase your physical activity
  • Follow your doctor's advice and taken any medications he or she recommends
  • Arrange another consultation with the doctor within a few days, even if you are feeling better