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Women's Health

Sharp stinging chest pain

08/19/2008

Question:

I am a 27 year old female. I woke up a few 2 mornings ago with a sharp stinging pain in my chest. The pain went from 2-3 hours apart to coming every hour. I also feel a little dizzy sometime between the pain. I have no insurance and I am scared that something is seriously wrong. Since it is so much to go the the E.R. I am reluctant to go if it is not s serious problem. I sometimes have chest pains, but they come and go. Any help or advice would be great! Thank you

Answer:

It is difficult to provide you with good advice without knowing more about your pain, such as where exactly is it located on your chest, do you have any other symptoms when you have the chest pain (such as shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness), do you have a cough or fever, or other things about your past medical history (such as your cholesterol level, are you on birth control pills) or family history.

With that mentioned, there are several things that can cause sharp stinging pain in the chest. First, a muscle pull or rib injury can cause this type of pain. Inflammation of the lining of the lung (pleurisy) can cause sharp pain, especially if it is worse when taking in a deep breath. Sometimes extra beats of the heart (most of them benign) called premature atrial contractions can cause sharp pains and dizziness. These extra heart beats are sometimes brought on by drinking too much caffeine, not getting enough sleep, or being under a lot of stress and anxiety.

Based on your age, it is unlikely that you are having a heart attack (although people in their 20s can do so). Sometimes small blood clots can break from the legs and go to the lungs (pulmonary embolism) and can cause sharp chest pain.

It really is impossible to provide you with a clear reason without taking more history and performing a physical examination. If you can't afford to go to an ER, you might be able to find a primary care physician who could see you and help you identify the exact cause for your pain.

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Response by:

W. Fred Miser, MD W. Fred Miser, MD
Associate Professor of Family Medicine
Director of Ohio State Medicine Residency Program
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University