What is Heart Pain?
Heart pain is a term commonly used to describe symptoms that result from compromised blood supply to the heart. Many know this as a type of chest pain, the medical term for heart pain is angina. The most classic heart pain is a pressure like sensation over the chest that may radiate to the left arm or the jaw. People describe heart pain like an elephant sitting on their chest. It’s extremely important however to realize that commonly, heart pain is not typical in nature. It can occur as a number of alternative symptoms that we will discuss in this article. It’s critical that patients are aware of the alternative presentations of heart pain to prevent misdiagnosis. Readers of this article may also want to read about heart blockage and the widowmaker.
What is Typical Heart Pain?
Typical heart pain needs to be taken seriously and needs immediate attention. Typical heart pain is a central pressure like sensation over the chest, often described as an elephant sitting on the chest. Typical heart pain may radiate to the arms, the back and the jaws. It often worsens with exertion, has associated shortness of breath, and calms with rest. If it occurs at rest and is sustained then it is unstable heart pain and immediate medical attention should be sought. Heart pain may be accompanied by nausea and sweating.
What are Other Forms Of Heart Pain?
Above we described typical heart pain symptoms. It’s important to know atypical heart pain symptoms also. These include fatigue or simply slowing down or not being able to so as much as in the past. There may be fainting, dizziness and light-headedness. There may be an indigestion type feeling as the main presenting pain. There may be heart failure symptoms also such as swelling of the legs and shortness of breath on laying flat.
Stable vs. Unstable Heart Pain
Many of the questions asked by Dr’s are to determine whether symptoms are stable or unstable. In stable heart pain the symptoms typically come on with exertion and improve with rest. In unstable heart pain the symptoms can occur even at rest, or start to occur with growing frequency. Stable symptoms certainly require physician evaluation however unstable symptoms typically warrant urgent hospitalization.
What To Do If You Have Heart Pain
If you have heart pain symptoms like those described its important that you seek medical attention. If symptoms are occurring at rest or with greater frequency then the medical attention needs to be immediate. If the pain is sudden onset and concerning then an ambulance needs to be called. It may be reasonable to take an aspirin also.
Treatment and Tests For Heart Pain
The treatment of heart pain depends upon the type of heart pain. It’s the heart pain is stable then use of medicines to treat symptoms is often tried before any kind of invasive management. Often tests such as exercise stress tests will be done at the same time to determine the risk profile and severity of any blockages. If the heart pain is unstable then more urgent treatment is required. Patients will be admitted to hospital given medicines and often under tests such as heart catheterization to determine the extent and severity of any blockages and give appropriate treatment. In some cases if there are blockages causing the heart pain felt to be severe stent placement may be used. In other cases where there are many severe blockages or complex forms of blockages then bypass surgery may be required.
Heart Pain Summary
If you have heart pain symptoms as described in this article the bottom line is that you need medical evaluation so that the stability of the symptoms and the extent of any underlying blockages can be determined and an appropriate treatment plan formed. It is important not to dismiss heart pain as it is a leading cause of death and poor outcomes that if managed appropriately can lead to improved outcomes for heart pain patients.