Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"What is causing the pressure in my chest?"
For the last couple of nights I have woke up in the middle of the night with a lot of pressure in my chest, right in the area where my heart is. Why do I have this pressure in my chest? Sometimes it makes it feel like I can't breathe too.
Chest pressure is a very worrisome symptom, as it can be caused by a variety of underlying illnesses, some of which are very serious and warrant further work-up. Perhaps the most worrisome cause of chest pressure in this setting is coronary artery disease. In this disease, plaque builds up in the arteries that supply the heart muscle with oxygen; when not enough oxygen is delivered by blood flow to the heart, pain results. If the degree of ischemia (ie, lack of oxygen) is great enough, then a "heart attack" can occur and permanent damage can be done to the heart muscle. Chest pain and shortness of breath can also be due less serious illnesses such as spasm of the esophagus or panic disorder. However, these illnesses are often diagnosed after more serious ones such as coronary artery disease are ruled out. If you are experiencing chest pain, then it would be advisable for you to see your primary care physician as soon as possible to discuss your symptoms. With a thorough medical history and physical exam, he or she should be able to come up with an accurate diagnosis and begin the proper course of treatment.
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