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Chest Pain

AMBULATORY CARE:

Chest pain

can be caused by a range of conditions, from not serious to life-threatening. It may be caused by a heart attack or a blood clot in your lungs. Sometimes chest pain or pressure is caused by poor blood flow to your heart (angina). Infection, inflammation, or a fracture in the bones or cartilage in your chest can cause pain or discomfort. Chest pain can also be a symptom of a digestive problem, such as acid reflux or a stomach ulcer. An anxiety attack or a strong emotion such as anger can also cause chest pain. It is important to follow up with your healthcare provider to find the cause of your chest pain.

Common symptoms you may have with chest pain:

  • Fever or sweating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Discomfort or pressure that spreads from your chest to your back, jaw, or arm
  • A racing or slow heartbeat
  • Feeling weak, tired, or faint

Call 911 if:

  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest
    • and any of the following:
      • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
      • Shortness of breath
      • Nausea or vomiting
      • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have chest discomfort that gets worse, even with medicine.
  • You cough or vomit blood.
  • Your bowel movements are black or bloody.
  • You cannot stop vomiting, or it hurts to swallow.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for chest pain

may include medicine to treat your symptoms while your healthcare provider finds the cause of your chest pain.

  • Medicines may be given to treat the cause of your chest pain. Examples include pain medicine, anxiety medicine, or medicines to increase blood flow to your heart.
  • Do not take certain medicines without asking your healthcare provider first. These include NSAIDs, herbal or vitamin supplements, or hormones (estrogen or progestin).
  • One or more stents may need to be placed in your heart if pain was caused by blockage. A stent is a wire mesh tube that helps hold your artery open.

Follow up with your healthcare provider within 72 hours, or as directed:

You may need to return for more tests to find the cause of your chest pain. You may be referred to a specialist, such as a cardiologist or gastroenterologist. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Healthy living tips:

The following are general healthy guidelines. If your chest pain is caused by a heart problem, your healthcare provider will give you specific guidelines to follow.

  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung and heart damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Eat a variety of healthy, low-fat, low-salt foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Ask for more information about a heart healthy diet.
  • Drink plenty of water every day. Your body is made of mostly water. Water helps your body to control your temperature and blood pressure. Ask your healthcare provider how much water you should drink every day.
  • Ask about activity. Your healthcare provider will tell you which activities to limit or avoid. Ask when you can drive, return to work, and have sex. Ask about the best exercise plan for you.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him or her to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.
  • Get the flu and pneumonia vaccines. All adults should get the influenza (flu) vaccine. Get it every year as soon as it becomes available. The pneumococcal vaccine is given to adults aged 65 years or older. The vaccine is given every 5 years to prevent pneumococcal disease, such as pneumonia.

If you have a stent:

  • Carry your stent card with you at all times.
  • Let all healthcare providers know that you have a stent.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Chest Pain (Ambulatory Care)

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