As many as 40% of Americans will experience chest pain during their lifetimes, and while that pain is often a one-time event in many cases, for some patients, chest pain symptoms are chronic and recurrent.
When chest pain happens, it’s common to wonder if you’re having a heart attack. But the fact is, lots of issues can cause chest pain, and identifying the root cause is essential for determining the right type of treatment.
Anthony B. Lewis MD, FACC, and the team at TLC Medical Group Inc use state-of-the-art diagnostic testing to identify the cause of chest pain in patients at their Port St. Lucie, Florida, practice. If you’ve had chest pain in the past or if you suffer from recurrent bouts of pain, here’s how Dr. Lewis can help determine what’s causing it.
Potential causes of recurrent chest pain
Worrying about a heart attack is a sensible response to chest pain, considering heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Heart problems can absolutely cause chronic or recurrent chest pain, so calling the office is an important step in determining if your cardiovascular system is the cause.
Angina is a common cause of recurrent chest pain, occurring when the vessels around your heart contract abnormally. These contractions restrict the flow of blood to your heart temporarily. Angina is usually associated with coronary artery disease or other issues that affect your blood vessels.
Because the heart is located near your stomach, chronic heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also cause chest pain. In this case, it’s your digestive system, not your heart, that’s the source of pain.
Anxiety is another fairly common cause of chest pain for many people, especially people who experience panic attacks. In a panic attack, your body releases a hormone called cortisol, a “fight-or-flight” hormone that can cause chest pain or tightness, shortness of breath, and palpitations — symptoms associated with heart attacks, as well.
There are other possible causes of chest pain, too, including infections and traumatic injuries. Having a cardiac evaluation is an important way to help determine if your heart or vascular system are involved or if you need to look at another possible cause.
Identifying the cause of chest pain: Testing and techniques
Dr. Lewis is skilled in a variety of techniques designed to evaluate your heart as a potential source of pain.
In most cases electrocardiogram (EKG) testing plays an important role in identifying many heart-related causes of chest pain. An EKG uses electrodes placed on your skin to measure and track the heart’s electrical activity. EKG testing can be used on its own or in combination with exercise (stress) testing to evaluate how your heart responds to physical exertion.
An EKG captures your heart’s activity during a brief period of time — typically just a few minutes or less. For longer monitoring, we may prescribe a Holter monitor, a small, wearable device that measures your heart activity over a longer period — typically 24 hours, but sometimes longer.
Blood tests can also be used to measure the level of troponin, a protein your heart releases when it’s in distress. Troponin travels through your bloodstream where it can be detected by a simple blood test. Higher levels of troponin typically are associated with increased damage to your heart muscle.
Ultrasound imaging is a noninvasive type of imaging that uses sound waves to capture images inside your body. In heart testing, ultrasound is often combined with exercise testing to see how your heart is pumping before and after physical exertion.
Angiography is a minimally invasive technique that uses a long, thin tube called a catheter to look at the arteries in and around your heart. Angiography is performed under sedation, and it’s typically used once we determine that your heart or arteries are causing your symptoms.
These are some of the more common tests Dr. Lewis uses to determine if your cardiovascular system is responsible for your frequent chest pain. They can also be used to rule out your heart and blood vessels, so you can look to other potential sources of pain.
Find out what’s causing your chest pain
Although chest pain can have a benign cause, it can also be associated with serious, life-threatening problems.
If you suspect you’re having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately. To get to the root cause of recurrent pain, call 772-200-3829 or book an appointment online with Dr. Lewis and the team at TLC Medical Group today.