Health Tips for Seniors

Archive for July, 2006

Facts about chest pain

What can we know of chest pains for our own benefit? Let us look at chest pain generally to observe a few fundamental facts about it. First of all, most chest pains are not caused by the heart. Most chest pains have their cause in either:

1. The breathing mechanism.
2. The muscle, ligament and bone of the chest.
3. Inflammation or tumor growth.
4. The swallowing tube (esophagus).
5. Pain originating from the abdomen.
6. Nerves (often called effort syndrome or neurocirculatory asthenia).

Heart pain can best be appreciated if the other chest pain sources are studied first. So let us first examine pain caused by the breathing mechanism. Pleurisy pain is the most common-type pain felt when the lungs or bronchial tubes are diseased. If pain is definitely related to the movement of breathing in and out, and ceases when breathing is stopped, it is nearly always the pain of pleurisy.

What causes pleurisy pain? Ordinarily, the lungs, covered by a smooth, wet envelope called the pleura, slide over a similar surface on the inside of the chest wall with each breath. If either of these smooth surfaces is irritated, inflammed or roughened in any way, the gliding movements of breathing cause enough friction to bring about pain (pleural pain). Pleurisy may be caused by various lung disorders such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, lung abscess, a blood clot in the lungs (infarction), pus in between the lung and chest wall (empyema), fractured ribs, and other difficulties. Pleurisy pain is thoroughly easy to understand and to identify when it occurs. It is not the kind of pain produced by the heart. It is well to know that heart disease is rarely accompanied by any pleural pain.

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Knowing the Chest pains clearly

Chest Pains

When pain strikes in the chest, one question leaps to the foreground. Is the pain coming from the heart or somewhere else? It is the same for all people including doctors themselves, who

Fig. 63. Chest pain strikes fear of heart trouble and possible sudden death. Most pain in this region is not from the heart, however, but from several other distinct causes. It is important not to disregard this pain which may be a warning of more serious possibilities ahead.

as a group seem particularly singled out for heart difficulties.

There is marked fear of chest pain today because most people have the idea that a heart attack is a painful story. This idea, usually correct, is an impression gleaned from newspapers, neighbors and educational literature. However, most people have only a portion of the true story, and they probably differ quite a bit one from another.

A well-rounded idea of chest pains is as important to us today as the much publicized danger points of cancer, because heart disease is the greatest killer in the United States today. Its chief symptom, chest pain, more than any other symptom, will alert an individual to seek expert medical advice regarding the status of his heart. It should, of course, be obvious that the greatest importance in chest pain is the opinion of a competent physician. He is skilled in interpreting pain and associated findings into an exact diagnosis, and will direct the treatment possibly for a severe heart attack or perhaps dismiss the difficulty as due to some less serious cause, such as heartburn.

In studying chest pain possibilities, we know that a slight pain for one of us might be described as unbearable by someone else. Also, we must realize that the severity of chest pain does not always reflect exactly the seriousness of the underlying disease. Chest pain, however, may never be taken lightly, and all too often, severe chest pain is regarded with a shrug, as caused by indigestion. This tragic error has aided many useful intelligent people to slip into eternity far before their time. The story is frequently heard after it is too late, “He thought it was only a little indigestion.”

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