Common Health Problems  »  General Health Conditions


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Signs & Symptoms

What It Could Be

What to Do

  1. Chest pressure, squeezing, burning, tightness, or pain (may spread to the arm, neck, back, tooth, or jaw).

  2. Chest discomfort with: Shortness of breath; sweating; nausea; fast or uneven pulse; lightheadedness; fainting. Other Heart Attack Warning Signs.

  3. Chest pain that does not respond to medicine for a person with angina or heart problems.

Heart Attack.

Call 9-1-1!

See Heart Attack.

  1. Severe chest pain with extreme pain felt across the upper back (not just on one side) that came on within 15 minutes without an injury, back strain, etc. The pain can spread to the abdomen.

  2. A knife-like sensation from front to back.

  3. Dizziness and fainting.

Dissecting aortic aneurysm. This is a tear in the main artery from the heart.

Call  9-1-1 or go to the emergency department of a hospital! Do not take aspirin.

Chest pain that gets worse when taking deep breaths and occurs with any of these conditions:

  1. Sudden shortness of breath and severe problems breathing.

  2. Rapid heartbeat.

  3. Cough with bloody sputum.

  4. Sudden onset of chest pain with calf pain.

  5. Long periods of being immobile from bed rest, recent surgery, or prolonged travel.

Blood clot(s) to the lungs.

Call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency department of a hospital!

  1. Sudden and sharp chest pain or tightness with breathing.

  2. Increasing shortness of breath.

Collapsed lung. Trauma to the chest is the main cause.

Call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency department of a hospital!

Vague pain in the chest (if any). Shortness of breath; chronic fatigue; cough with phlegm or blood; night sweats; appetite and weight loss; and fever.

Tuberculosis (TB). Chronic lung infection with a certain bacteria.

See doctor.

Burning feeling in the chest or just above the stomach that comes and goes before, during, or after eating. It gets worse when you bend over or lie down.

Heartburn or hiatal hernia. {Note: This could also signal a heart attack.}

Chest pain that worsens with deep breaths, coughing, or touching the chest or ribs.

Pleurisy. The membrane that surrounds the lungs is inflamed. Muscle strain or rib injury.

See doctor for diagnosis. See, also, Sprains, Strains & Sports Injuries.

Chest pain with fever and coughing up green, yellow, or gray mucus.

Flu, pneumonia, bronchitis, or other upper respiratory infection.

See doctor. See Colds & Flu, Pneumonia, and Bronchitis.

Sudden, sharp pain below the left nipple that lasts less than a minute or so.

Precordial catch syndrome. This harmless, recurrent problem usually occurs in young adults.

See doctor for diagnosis. Try daily stretching exercises to reduce getting these pains.

Pain and tender feeling in the upper part of the chest. The pain gets worse when pressure is applied to the area. It can get worse with deep breaths, too.

Costochondritis. This is inflammation where the ribs attach to the breastbone.

See doctor for diagnosis. Take an OTC medicine for pain and swelling. Apply a heating pad set on low or a hot water bottle to the area of pain.

{Note: Conditions that are most common in teens and young adults have an * in the What It Could Be column.}

  1. Chest discomfort

  2. Palpitations (feelings that your heart is skipping a beat, fluttering, or beating too hard or too fast).

  3. Shortness of breath or cough.

  4. Fatigue, dizziness, or anxiety.

  5. Migraine headaches.

Mitral Valve Prolapse.*

See your health care provider right away for diagnosis. Once this is diagnosed, follow your provider’s advice for medication and self-care. Eat healthy foods. Avoid caffeine. Deal with and control stress and anxiety.

To help prevent a bacterial infection of the thin membrane that lines the heart cavity, brush and flosses your teeth daily.