Burning chest pain is a common symptom experienced in many conditions that affect the heart, lungs, chest region and also the gastric tract. While not every chest pain is a serious condition of the heart, it is better to pay attention to any chest pain and get it treated properly.
Burning pain in chest can be felt under the breastbone, can be sudden sharp pain or may be felt as dull aching, burning pain. The burning chest pain may be experienced after particular body movements, lying down, during coughing, bending over or after eating food.
What Can Cause Burning Chest Pain?
As there are various causes of burning chest pain, the presentation also varies. Here are some causes that can lead to burning chest pain:
Gastrointestinal Causes of Burning Chest Pain
Gastric causes are the commonest causes of burning pain in chest region. The chest pain is often felt due to acid reflux from the stomach into the esophagus, causing burning sensation in chest. The chest pain is usually felt under the breast bone and regurgitation of food may also be felt. This is normally accompanied with burning sensation in throat, nausea and even vomiting.
Repeated regurgitation of acid and food contents can cause erosion of the inner lining of the mucosa and cause burning chest pain and other symptoms. It may be related to spicy foods, fatty or fried foods and pain may be felt after eating a heavy meal or lying down after eating.
Some conditions commonly leading to this include
- Heartburn, Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), acid and stomach contents flow back to food pipe (esophagus), due to improper functioning of the valves or inefficient digestion and can cause burning chest pain or give a burning sensation in the chest.
- Gallstones too can cause burning chest pain. It may be associated with pain in right upper part of the abdomen and right shoulder blade, with indigestion and commonly felt after eating fatty foods.
- Other conditions like esophagitis (inflammation of the lining), hiatus hernia (protrusion of abdominal contents through an opening), Barrett's esophagus, esophageal varices, peptic ulcers and cancer can cause reflux symptoms and burning pain in chest.
Barium studies, imaging studies and endoscopies may be helpful in finding the cause. Treatment for burning chest pain due to above cited medical conditions usually includes antacids, anti-emetics and other specific medications. Bland diet, regular exercises and sitting in upright posture can help prevent the burning sensation or burning pain in chest.
Cardiovascular Causes of Burning Chest Pain
Many conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels can mimic heartburn causing burning pain in chest. Usually, when burning chest pain is felt during exercises or after particularly strenuous activities, it can be related to the heart.
- A commonly known chest pain, called angina, occurs due to obstruction of the blood flow to the heart. Angina and heart attack can result in burning chest pain. The blockage of artery cuts down the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the heart leading to damaged muscle of the heart and results in severe chest pain. Pain in the chest may be felt radiating to the arms, shoulders, neck and the jaws. This might be accompanied with sweating, feeling of tightness around the chest and shortness of breath.
- Pericarditis is another cause of burning chest pain, which results from inflammation of the lining around the heart. Pain may be felt as sharp, stabbing and burning in the chest and can radiate to back and neck. Chest pain can worsen during breathing, lying down and can vary in intensity.
Respiratory Causes of Burning Chest Pain
Lung related conditions too can cause chest pain. Inflammation of the lining (pleuritis), infections of the lungs and other respiratory conditions can cause burning pain in chest. Such pain may be often accompanied with cough, difficulty in breathing and fever; pain may worsen with breathing movements.
Other pulmonary conditions like pulmonary embolism (a blood clot causing blockage of blood vessel in the lung) and pneumothorax (air gets trapped in the chest wall due to infection of injury) can cause burning chest pain
Pulmonary disorders need to be evaluated properly and treated in time to avoid further complications.
Musculoskeletal Causes of Burning Chest Pain
Chest pain can be a result of injury to the ribs or soft tissues around the ribs. Fracture of ribs, strained muscle or any injury in the chest region can cause burning pain in the chest.
An inflammation of the rib cartilage called costochondritis, commonly causes sharp burning chest pain in the front, which may worsen on pressing the breast bone. Burning chest pain may also be felt due to strained muscles in the neck and shoulder region extending to the upper part of the chest.
Others Causes of Burning Chest Pain
Other factors like stress, anxiety and panic attacks too can worsen the already existing problems, increase acid reflux and result in burning chest pain. Infections like herpes that affect the skin on the chest region can cause burning, stinging pain along the nerve course.
Sometimes, consumption of hot food or drinks, stimulants and spicy food can cause burning in the chest. Lifestyle preferences like smoking and drinking alcohol can contribute to the problems and result in burning chest pain.
Treatment for Burning Chest Pain
After relevant investigations for the cause of burning chest pain is completed, diagnosis can be made. Specific treatment for the particular cause of burning pain in chest should be initiated. Some cases requiring emergency medical treatment should be managed accordingly.
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