Chest pain may be a sign of a life-threatening medical emergency, or it may be an uncomfortable symptom of a minor and temporary ailment. One might feel this symptom anywhere between the neck and the upper abdomen, and it may feel dull, aching, burning, stabbing, tight, or sharp. People often think chest pain indicates a heart problem, but this is not always the case. However, it's important to rule out heart problems as a cause of chest pain before looking for another less serious cause.
Angina, caused by reduced blood flow to the heart, is often mistaken for a heart attack. People who experience angina may feel a squeezing or tightness in the chest. The condition most commonly occurs in people with heart disease, and it is considered a warning sign for future cardiovascular events. Stable angina is the most common type, and it usually occurs along with physical exertion or stress. It may be a recurring problem, and often people are aware of what triggers an event. Unstable angina is a medical emergency; the decreased blood flow can last up to half an hour, even without a trigger. Unlike stable angina, typically brought on by activity, unstable angina may occur at rest. Angina that becomes more severe, frequent, or longer-lasting is also classified as unstable angina. The main difference between angina and heart attack is that angina is a temporary reduction of blood flow to the heart muscle. In contrast, a heart attack occurs when blood clot forms in a blood vessel that carries blood to the heart and completely blocks it. This can cause permanent damage to the heart muscle.
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