Chest Pain, Acute

Severe, sudden chest pain can represent a life-threatening problem. Follow this chart for more information.

Our trusted Symptom Checker is written and reviewed by physicians and patient education professionals. Find a possible diagnosis by choosing a symptom and answering a few simple questions.

Remember, be sure to consult with you doctor if you feel you have a serious medical problem.

Step 2

Answering Questions

  • Is the affected person an infant or child?

  • Do you have severe chest pain?

  • Do you have symptoms of a cold or the flu, such as fever, aches, chills, runny nose and/or cough?

  • Do you have a cough that produces greenish, yellowish, or tan mucus, a fever and shortness of breath?

  • Do you have a cough that produces a small amount of clear mucus, and does your chest hurt when you take a deep breath?

  • Are you uncomfortable from your shortness of breath?

  • Do you have a sharp pain on one side of your chest when you take a deep breath?

  • Do you experience shortness of breath when you are physically active and/or when you’re lying down?

  • Do you have pressure in your chest, shortness of breath and numbness around your lips or in your hands or feet?

  • Do you have any of the following symptoms?Crushing pain or uncomfortable pressure in the middle of your chest that lasts more than a few minutesSqueezing pain in the chest or left upper armSweating and nauseaSevere shortness of breath

  • Does the pain or discomfort occur only when you swallow or after you eat?

  • Do you have a painful, blistering rash on your chest or back?

  • Do you have back pain that radiates around to the front of your chest?

Step 3

Possible Causes

  • See Chest Pain in Infants and Children
  • Diagnosis

    Your symptoms may be from an infection such as PNEUMONIA.


    Self Care

    Pneumonia can be a serious health problem. See your doctor right away.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have VIRAL BRONCHITIS. Your pain may be caused by PLEURISY, an irritation of the lining of the lung that is usually caused by a viral infection. Hard coughing may also cause pain in the muscles and chest wall.


    Self Care

    Drink plenty of fluids, and try cold medicines and/or anti-inflammatory medicines to relieve your symptoms. See your doctor if the cough continues for more than a few days or if you develop a fever.


  • Diagnosis


    Self Care

    Drink plenty of fluids, and try cold medicines and/or anti-inflammatory medicines to relieve your symptoms. See your doctor if the cough continues for more than a few days or if you develop a fever.


  • Diagnosis

    Your pain may indicate PNEUMOTHORAX, a condition in which air leaks from a lung and fills the chest cavity. This makes it difficult to breathe.


    Self Care

    See your doctor right away. Treatment of pneumothorax may require hospitalization.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have a serious problem, such as CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE, ASTHMA or PULMONARY EDEMA.


    Self Care

    See your doctor right away.


  • Diagnosis

    These could be symptoms of HYPERVENTILATION, an episode of overbreathing often caused by stress of anxiety.


    Self Care

    IF YOU HAVE A HEART PROBLEM, LUNG CONDITION, ASTHMA, OR IF YOU’RE EXPERIENCING RAPID BREATHING FOR THE FIRST TIME, GO DIRECTLY TO THE HOSPITAL.

    If you have hyperventilated before due to stress or anxiety, your doctor may have given you information about treating yourself. Lie down, relax and try to slow your breathing. Try breathing through pursed lips (as if you were whistling), or cover your mouth and one nostril, and breathe through the other nostril.


  • Diagnosis

    Your pain may be from a HEART ATTACK or MYOCARDIAL INFARCTION. Note: Just like for men, chest pain is the most common heart attack symptom in women. However, women are more likely than men to experience the following symptoms (with or without chest pain) when having a heart attack: abdominal pain, feeling lightheaded or dizzy, back or jaw pain, and unexplained fatigue.


    Self Care

    EMERGENCY.
    CALL AN AMBULANCE RIGHT AWAY.


  • Diagnosis

    Your pain may be from an irritation of the stomach called GASTRITIS or an irritation of the esophagus called ESOPHAGITIS. A HIATAL HERNIA (a weakness in the diaphragm) or esophageal spasms may also cause this type of pain and discomfort.


    Self Care

    Try an antacid, and eat smaller, less spicy meals. See your doctor if the problem persists.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have a viral infection of the nerves and skin called SHINGLES.


    Self Care

    See your doctor. Shingles usually clears on its own, but medication may ease the pain and help prevent complications.


  • Diagnosis

    Your pain may be from a compressed nerve, possibly from a COMPRESSION FRACTURE.


    Self Care

    See your doctor promptly.


  • Diagnosis


    Self Care

    See your doctor promptly.