What Is Chest Pain?

Man holding chest in pain

When your heart muscle doesn't receive enough oxygen-rich blood, it can cause pain or discomfort in your chest. This pain can feel like tightening, pressure or even heartburn. There are many types of angina, and chest pain in itself is not a disease, but rather a symptom of another more serious underlying heart problem, such as coronary heart disease or coronary microvascular disease.

Types of Angina

There are four main types of angina:

  • Stable Angina: Chest pain due to coronary heart disease.  
  • Unstable Angina: When the coronary arteries are blocked because of fatty buildup, causing reduced blood flow to the heart muscles. The chest pain can come on unexpectedly and occurs when resting. 
  • Microvascular Angina: This type of angina is the result of coronary microvascular disease (CMD), which affects the heart's smallest blood vessels in the coronary artery.
  • Variant Angina: One of the more rare forms of chest pain, this very painful type of chest pain is caused by a spasm in your coronary arteries.

What Causes Chest Pain?

There are many different causes of angina, including the following:

  • Coronary Heart Disease.
  • Coronary Microvascular Disease.
  • Pulmonary Embolism (blockage of arteries in the lungs).
  • Aortic Dissection (a tear in your aorta).
  • Aortic Stenosis (narrowing of your heart's aortic valve).
  • Cardiomyopathy (diseases of the heart muscle)
  • Pericarditis (inflammation of the heart tissue).
  • Panic Attack.

Treatment at Penn

Some people may never need treatment for their condition. For others, medications and lifestyle changes may be all that's required to help you control your chest pain.

If your angina relates to a more serious condition and you need an implantable device or surgery, know that Penn is a national leader in heart failure, heart surgery and heart transplantation. Penn Medicine's specialized cardiologists and surgeons offer medical treatments not available at other centers and perform more heart transplants per year than all of the regional heart transplant centers combined.

When you choose Penn, you choose to work with a dedicated team of cardiologists and heart surgeons who continue to lead the field, advancing the science of cardiac care.

Penn Programs & Services for Chest Pain

Physician and patient discussing care
Primary Cardiology

Offers patients with cardiovascular disease the highest level of medical expertise

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