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Chest Pain in Women: Causes & Symptoms

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Do you know of someone who has chest pain? You may be thinking it's an indicator of a heart attack, and in some cases it might be, but there are many other possibilities for this feeling. This lesson goes over the four major categories behind chest pain.

Types Of Chest Pain

What do the following have in common?

  • Sharp
  • Stabbing
  • Dull
  • Squeezing
  • Crushing
  • Burning
  • Aching

If you answered they have something to do with some sort of horror movie then, well, you might actually be right. But in the context of this lesson, it has to do with the ways a woman may describe her chest pain. Just like there are many ways by which this chest pain may be described, there are many reasons for why a woman may have chest pain.

Cardiovascular & Respiratory Disorders

Chest pain may stem from a cardiovascular problem, one that has to do with the heart and blood vessels. Cardio- means heart and -vascular refers to blood vessels. One famous example of a cardiovascular problem that may lead to chest pain is a heart attack. This is a condition where part of the heart muscle dies. Men and women report chest pain as their most common symptom of a heart attack but men are more likely to experience chest pain during a heart attack than women.

Other signs and symptoms of a heart attack, besides chest pain of course, include:

  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Pain in other parts of the body like the arms or jaw

A heart attack is a condition where part of the heart muscle dies.
Heart attack

Note that chest pain doesn't always lead to a heart attack, but is one possible indicator of a heart attack when present.

Right next to the heart are the lungs, which are part of the respiratory system. Respiratory problems can definitely lead to chest pain. One possible cause of this is a pulmonary embolism. This is a condition where a small object traveling through the veins of the body, usually part of blood clot, lodges itself in the vessels of the lungs. In addition to chest pain, a pulmonary embolism may also lead to shortness of breath or even a cough.

Gastrointestinal & Musculoskeletal Disorders

Another major reason for chest pain in women is a gastrointestinal problem. Gastro- means stomach and intestinal refers to our intestines. As such, we're talking about the digestive system. A great example of a gastrointestinal problem that can lead to the feeling of chest pain is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is a disorder where stomach acid comes up into the esophagus, causes a burning sensation, and leads to heartburn. In addition to chest pain, GERD can also lead to difficulty swallowing, regurgitation of some food, and even a sore throat.

Finally, the last cause for why women may experience chest pain involves the musculoskeletal system, which includes muscles and bones. A possible reason for chest pain involving this system is a really bad and persistent cough. All that coughing will irritate the muscles and even bones of the chest, leading to chest pain. Broken bones involving the ribcage would lead to some intense chest pain as well.

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