Chest pain on the left side can create a sense of fear as it is thought to be related to a heart attack. While this is possible, there are many other conditions that can give rise to left sided chest pain. The severity, intensity and nature of chest pain may vary with the underlying cause.
Chest pain can be sudden and sharp that comes suddenly or may be dull aching that appears gradually. Some people may experience left sided chest pain on exercising, deep breathing or sometimes when lying down. Intermittent chest pain on the left or left sided chest pain that comes and goes may need to be correlated with other health factors and associated symptoms.
Causes Of Left Sided Chest Pain
Left sided chest pain can indicate heart disorders, lung diseases, bone and muscle problems, or gastric troubles. The symptoms and exact character of chest pain depends on the cause, which needs to be evaluated thoroughly.
Heart Related Causes Of Pain On Left Side Of The Chest
Left sided chest pain can be due to heart related causes.
- Myocardial infarction, commonly called a heart attack, occurs when reduced blood flow to the heart causes permanent damage and death of some cells in the heart muscle. The pain is severe and sharp, radiating to the back or left arms, along with sweating, shortness of breath and nausea.
- Angina is chest pain caused by clogging of arteries, which affects the blood flow to the heart. This is usually seen in coronary artery disease (CAD) and has symptoms similar to a heart attack; it does not cause permanent damage, but may mean that there is an increased risk of heart attack. In this, left sided chest pain can be aggravated by exercise and emotional stress.
- Acute or chronic pericarditis is inflammation of the membrane that surrounds the heart. It causes left sided sharp, stabbing chest pain, usually beneath the breastbone and towards left side of the chest.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is abnormal thickening of the heart muscle. It can cause shortness of breath and left sided chest pain on exertion.
- Mitral valve prolapse, is improper closure of a heart valve, causing chest pain with dizziness and palpitations.
- Myocarditis, which is an inflammation of heart muscle, can cause left sided chest pain with breathing difficulty.
- Coronary artery dissection, when the artery to the heart ruptures, can lead to severe chest pain extending to back, neck and abdomen.
Lung Related Conditions That Can Cause Pain On Left Side Of Chest
Pulmonary conditions too can be a major cause of Left Side Chest Pain:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma can cause chest pain along with wheezing, cough and difficulty in breathing.
- Chest infections, lung abscesses, pneumonia can cause deep aching chest pain, fever, chills, sometimes accompanied by expectoration.
- Inflammation of the pleura (lining of lungs), called pleurisy can cause sharp chest pain on coughing or breathing.
- Pulmonary embolism, which is lodging of a blood clot in the lungs, can cause chest pain and difficulty in breathing.
- Pulmonary hypertension or elevated blood pressure in the lung artery can cause chest pain.
Other Causes Of Left Sided Chest Pain
- Gastrointestinal conditions like bloated abdomen and indigestion, causing excessive accumulation of gas; gallbladder diseases (e.g. gallstones) inflammation of inner mucosa (esophagitis, gastritis), gastric and peptic ulcers, hiatus hernia, disorders of pancreas (e.g. pancreatitis) can cause chest pain on left side. In these conditions, left sided chest pain may be seen after eating food or when lying down.
- Bone and muscle injuries, left sided muscular spasms, rib fractures on the left side can cause left sided chest pain. It may cause chest pain on movement, exercise or activity and may be relieved with rest.
- Nerve injuries, muscle strain causing nerve compression can sometimes lead to left sided chest pain.
- Viral infections like shingles affecting the nerve course on the left side and cause chest pain.
- Stress may also be considered as a contributing factor. Left sided chest pain may be felt on sudden agitation or excitement, during increased periods of stress and may give a feeling of chest tightness. Panic attacks, too present with a situation similar to chest due to heart disorders and needs proper evaluation.
Know When Left Side Chest Pain Can Be Heart Attack
Not every chest pain is serious. But knowing the warning signs of a heart attack is important.
- Chest tightness, heaviness or feeling of squeezing in the chest
- Chest pain that radiates to left arm, neck or jaw
- Discomfort in breathing, shortness of breath and sweating
- A feeling of uneasiness, nausea or dizziness.
Chest pain on the left side can be due to various causes. Based on symptoms, history and clinical examination, appropriate investigations should be done. Treatment may include medications depending on the underlying cause. In some cases surgical approach may be considered.
Lifestyle modifications like maintaining a healthy weight; consuming a balanced diet; maintaining adequate fluid intake; regular, moderate exercises and being physically active. It is important to identify the risk factors of major illness and heart disorders. Managing stress and following medical treatment for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity can be of great help.