When Does Chest Pain Require Medical Care?

When dealing with chest pain, it can be difficult to determine the difference between common aches and pains or a condition that should be treated by a doctor. Dr. Oyidie Igbokidi, an interventional cardiologist at the CHI St. Vincent Heart Clinic Arkansas in Hot Springs, answers some of the most common questions about chest pain.

How can I tell when my chest pain requires medical attention?

“The general rule should be if you have any chest discomfort that is new, persistent and greater than mild, you should seek emergency care. If you have milder symptoms, you can call your primary physician and make an appointment to get in and see them as soon as possible.”

What is the most common type of chest pain that you see?

“Patients having chest pain from lack of oxygen flow to the heart muscle. They typically say it’s brought on by exertion and relieved by rest. It may radiate to the jaw, left arm or neck. I would say this sounds like classic angina.”

Is chest pain always related to the heart? 

“We do also see patients come in with chest pain that is atypical and non-cardiac. That could be something like acid reflux or another muscular or skeletal cause.”

How do you determine the severity of chest pain? 

“Being a cardiologist, I see a lot of patients with chest pain or cardiac etiology. From there, we have to be sure that we’re looking at that patient based on the risk factors that increase the probability that the pain is coming from the heart. Those risk factors could be other conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking or a family history of early-onset heart disease.”

Is it possible to have angina without experiencing chest pain?

“Angina can come in different forms. It could be a sharp pain. It can be a burning discomfort. It can feel like acid reflux. It can be discomfort in the upper abdominal region. For women and diabetics especially, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting or suddenly breaking out in a sweat can be indication of low blood flow to the heart.”

To learn more about heart health and how to make healthy choices to help prevent or treat heart disease, visit: chistvincent.com/heart