Chest pain is among the most common symptoms that brings patients in to the Internist. It’s obvious why this is such a concern….we all know this can be a sign of heart disease and ignoring such symptoms can lead to severe consequences, including sudden death.
But….most of the time, chest pains are not related to the heart and once we’ve declared the heart fit and healthy, be tell the patient this and feel that our job is finished. Of course, an intelligent person will then ask….”OK…if it’s not my heart…what is it then?”
Aha….that is a very difficult question to answer. We actually have a term for this condition: It’s called NON-CARDIAC CHEST PAIN. Unfortunately, this is really a ‘non’ diagnosis, and many patients will point that out to me when I give them this phrase. I tell them what IT IS NOT…but I don’t tell them WHAT IT IS.
The reasons for this are myriad, but really, from the doctors standpoint, once the heart is cleared of being the culprit, our level of concerns is reduced from WARNING/RED ALERT to WHO CARES/GREEN-GO…NO WORRIES. But this just won’t do.
There are a variety of other considerations for chest pains, most of them related to the digestive system and stomach acidity irritating the esophagus. Often, we will try medications like Prilosec (Omeprazole) for these symptoms, but that works only on occasion. This MAYO article discusses them in some detail and is a useful ‘first look’ for those of you who might have chest pains, have been told your heart is AOK, but are still frustrated dealing with ongoing symptoms.