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Is this Chest Pain from GERD or a Heart Attack?

Chest pain is a common symptom of both these medical conditions – heart attack and heartburn(GERD). A heart attack is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate medical assistance while GERD is a relatively less serious ailment for which you need timely medical care but do not need to rush to the hospital in an emergency.

The pain felt in the chest due to a heart attack or some issue in the cardiovascular system of the body is referred to as cardiac chest pain. The chest pain that does not originate due to a cardiovascular disorder is termed as noncardiac chest pain.

GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease causes noncardiac chest pain accompanied by a burning sensation in the throat and chest. At times, it is difficult for most people to differentiate one form of chest pain from the other. Thus, it is extremely essential for you to be able to learn about the similarities and differences between cardiac and noncardiac chest pain.

In this blog, we will discuss both these medical conditions in detail and help you understand the difference in the type of chest pain associated with a heart attack and heartburn.

Is it GERD?

Acid reflux is caused when the digestive acids move up from the stomach into the food pipe or esophagus. This causes pain and an unpleasant burning sensation in the chest and the throat. 

The chest pain that occurs during heartburn can be felt in the exact center of the chest exactly behind the breastbone. Other symptoms of GERD include bad breath, sour taste in the mouth, difficulty in swallowing, tooth decay, nausea, and vomiting.

Is it a Heart Attack?

A heart attack is caused when there is a complete blockage in the blood supply to the heart muscles. In case of delay or lack of immediate medical care, a part of the heart muscle can die.

The cardiac chest pain is felt in the center or left side of the chest. The cardiac chest pain varies in intensity from mild to intense and often comes and goes away. It is common for most people to confuse cardiac chest pain with GERD and vice versa.

It is also important to note that not everyone who gets a heart attack complains of chest pain. Other symptoms of a heart attack include a feeling of extreme pressure and tightness in the center of the chest, feeling of weakness and heaviness in one or both arms, and difficulty in breathing.

A heart attack may also cause nausea and vomiting accompanied by dizziness. It may also cause a tingling sensation in the arms, neck, jaws, lips, and stomach. 

Cardiac Versus Noncardiac Chest Pain

These two forms of chest pain can be easily differentiated on three parameters – location of the pain, how the pain feels, and other symptoms accompanied by chest pain.

  1. Location of the pain – Although both cardiac and non-cardiac chest pain occurs in the center of the chest, cardiac chest pain often spreads across the chest and can even extend to other parts of the body such as the neck, shoulders, arms, jaw, and even teeth.

    Noncardiac chest pain such as the one caused due to GERD remains localized at the center of the chest and does not at all spread to other areas.

  2. How the pain feels – Cardiac chest pain can be described by the feeling of heaviness and undue pressure accompanied by a sensation of tightness and fullness.

    Whereas the noncardiac GERD chest pain feels similar to the sensation of intense stabbing or burning right beneath the skin surface. The intensity of the noncardiac chest pain usually varies with coughing, breathing, and moving but cardiac chest pain remains unaffected even while resting.

  3. Accompanying symptoms – Chest pain associated with a heart attack is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as shortness of breath and dizziness.

    Noncardiac chest pain like the one caused by GERD can be identified by other symptoms such as the unpleasant taste of mouth, bad breath, and difficulty in swallowing.

If you take a notice of your chest pain location and other symptoms, it is not very difficult to differentiate between cardiac chest pain and noncardiac chest pain caused due to GERD.

In the case of cardiac chest pain, you must immediately rush to the hospital or call an ambulance to seek emergency medical care. However, if the chest pain and burning sensation seem to be associated with GERD, we advise you to get medical assistance from a renowned gastroenterologist.

Dr. Srikanth Gadiyaram is a highly qualified surgical gastroenterologist and advanced laparoscopic surgeon. He has over two decades of medical experience and is undoubtedly the best doctor in Bangalore for the world-class treatment of heartburn or GERD.

He has a proven track record of success in 12000+ laparoscopic surgeries and specializes in the anti-reflux surgery for GERD. At Sahasra Hospitals, his only mission is to make laparoscopic surgeries affordable for the common man.

If you have any symptoms of heartburn or GERD, seek expert medical guidance and the best-in-class medical treatment from Dr. Srikanth Gadiyaram at Sahasra Hospitals. Book an appointment today!

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