Chest Burning: 17 Possible Causes (2023)

Is this cause for concern?

You have a painful burning feeling in your chest. Is it heartburn? Or, is it something much more serious, like a heart attack?

Pain, burning, and other uncomfortable sensations in the chest lead to 8 million emergency room visits each year. But only a small percentage of these cases are truly life-threatening.

Oftentimes, the cause is something completely unrelated to the heart — like heartburn, asthma, or an ulcer.

Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms to watch for and when to seek medical attention.

You usually won’t need to call an ambulance or visit an emergency room for burning in your chest.

But if you’re experiencing any of the following, the burning in your chest may be a sign of a heart attack or dangerously abnormal heart rhythm:

  • squeezing, fullness, pain, burning, or pressure in the middle or left side of your chest
  • pain that spreads to your jaw, neck, shoulders, arms, or back
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • dizziness
  • extreme fatigue
  • sweating
  • abnormally slow or fast heartbeat

If you have these symptoms, call your local emergency services or have someone drive you to the emergency room immediately. Quick response and treatment could save your life.

Symptoms of heartburn and a heart attack are easy to confuse. Both can cause a burning sensation in your chest. And because heartburn is reported in up to 40 percent of U.S. adults, it’s a very common reason for this symptom.

You experience heartburn when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus. This is the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. A band of muscle at the bottom of your esophagus normally closes when you’re not eating to keep food and acid inside your stomach. If it relaxes prematurely, acids can back up into your esophagus.

In heartburn, the burning feeling often begins after you’ve eaten, or at night. It may get worse when you lie down or bend over. You might also have a sour taste in your mouth.

(Video) Is burning in the chest a sign of a heart attack ? | Health FAQS

Here are a few other common conditions that can cause burning sensations in your chest.

2. GERD

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or acid reflux, is when acid regularly backs up from your stomach into your esophagus.

Heartburn is a symptom of GERD. When you have GERD, you may get heartburn and other acid reflux symptoms once or more a week. At least 20 percent of U.S. people have GERD.

Other symptoms include:

  • trouble swallowing
  • feeling like there’s a lump in your throat
  • bringing up food or sour liquid into your throat
  • cough
  • hoarse voice
  • asthma
  • trouble sleeping

3. Esophagitis

Frequent episodes of stomach acid backup from GERD can cause inflammation in the esophagus, called esophagitis. Food allergies, infections, and certain medications can also cause this condition. The allergy-related form of esophagitis affects about 10 out of every 100,000 people each year.

Over time, esophagitis can scar and narrow the lining of the esophagus. This can affect its ability to carry food to your stomach.

In addition to chest burning and pain, esophagitis can cause:

  • painful swallowing
  • difficulty swallowing
  • a sensation of food being stuck in the esophagus

4. Stomach ulcer

An ulcer is an open sore in the stomach. It’s caused by acid wearing away at the stomach lining. This usually results from H. pylori bacteria and excessive use of over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers.

With an ulcer, the burning will be in your stomach, or the center of your chest. The pain may get worse at night or after you eat.

Other symptoms include:

  • bloating or a full feeling
  • belching
  • nausea

5. Hiatal hernia

A hiatal hernia occurs when part of your stomach pushes through a hole in your diaphragm into the chest cavity. You’re more likely to get this condition if you smoke, are overweight, or are over 50 years old.

The symptoms of a hiatal hernia are similar to those of GERD, including burning in the chest and:

  • bloating
  • belching
  • heartburn
  • sour taste in the back of the throat
  • pain in the stomach or esophagus

6. Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an infection that makes the lungs fill with air or pus. Bacteria, viruses, and fungi can all cause pneumonia.

Chest pain from pneumonia can start when you take a breath or cough. Other symptoms include:

(Video) Heartburn is a burning feeling in chest caused by stomach acid travelling up to throat (acid reflux)

  • cough
  • fever
  • chills
  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • vomiting

The symptoms can vary depending on what type of germ caused the infection. Pneumonia can be very serious, so see your doctor right away if you’re experiencing any symptoms.

7. Pleurisy

Pleurisy occurs when the tissue lining your chest wall and surrounding your lungs becomes irritated and inflamed. Infections, certain medications, and autoimmune disorders can all cause pleurisy.

The pain from pleurisy is sharp. It will get worse when you breathe in.

Other symptoms include:

  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • fever
  • pain in the shoulders or back

8. Shingles

Shingles is an infection caused by the same virus (varicella-zoster) that causes chickenpox in childhood. After the chickenpox rash clears up, the virus hides out in your body. As you age and your immune system weakens, that virus can reemerge and cause shingles.

About 1 in 3 U.S. adults get shingles during their lifetime. The rate among people age 60 and older is 10 out of every 1,000 people.

The most notable symptom of shingles is a painful, burning, blistering rash on one side of your body. Other symptoms include:

  • itching
  • fever
  • headache
  • fatigue

9. Angina

Angina is chest pain that’s triggered by a lack of blood to your heart. It’s not a disease, but rather a symptom of coronary heart disease or another condition that restricts blood flow to the heart.

Just over 2 million medical visits each year are due to angina. Though angina isn’t a heart attack, it can feel like one. Its symptoms include pain and pressure in your chest that can radiate into your arms, shoulder, neck, jaw, or back. Like a heart attack, the pain can also mimic heartburn.

Other signs of angina include:

  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea
  • sweating
  • dizziness

Because these symptoms are so similar to those of a heart attack, you should get them checked out as soon as possible.

10. Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are an incredibly common type of mental illness. They affect 40 million U.S. adults every year.

The symptoms of an anxiety attack can so closely mirror those of a heart attack that it’s hard to tell the two apart. Chest pain, a pounding heart, dizziness, and sweating occur with both conditions.

Because the symptoms of anxiety and a heart attack can overlap so much, you should get medical help if you’re not sure which one you have.

11. Asthma

About 26 million Americans have asthma — a disease in which the airways in the lungs narrow. This narrowing prevents enough oxygen from getting into the lungs and to the rest of the body.

During an asthma attack, your chest can feel tight and it may be hard to catch your breath. Other symptoms include:

  • coughing
  • wheezing
  • trouble sleeping, if you have asthma attacks at night

A few other conditions can cause a burning feeling in your chest, although they’re much less common reasons for this symptom.

12. Pulmonary embolism

Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a blockage in a blood vessel of the lung. It’s usually caused by a blood clot that travels to your lung from your leg (deep vein thrombosis) or other parts of your body.

PE can cause pain in your chest that gets worse when you breathe in, cough, eat, or bend over. Other symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath that gets worse with exertion
  • cough, sometimes bringing up blood
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • dizziness
  • swelling, tenderness, and warmth in the leg

PE is considered a life-threatening emergency, so you should seek immediate medical attention if you’re experiencing symptoms.

13. Heart attack

Only a small percentage of people with chest pain are actually having a heart attack. But because a heart attack is a medical emergency, it’s important to be alert for the warning signs.

A heart attack happens when a blood vessel that supplies the heart is blocked. The lack of oxygen-rich blood causes the affected parts of the heart muscle to die.

Chest pain from a heart attack feels like a pressure, squeezing, burning, or pain in the middle or left side of your chest. The pain may go away and come back. It can also radiate to your arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach.

Other symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • shortness of breath
  • cold sweat
  • nausea
  • dizziness

If you have these symptoms, call your local emergency services or have someone take you to the emergency room right away.

14. Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is a problem with the muscles that push food through your stomach and into your intestines. When these muscles don’t work like they should, food can’t properly empty from your stomach.

If you have gastroparesis, you’ll feel full and bloated soon after you eat. You may also have pain in your upper abdomen or heartburn.

Other symptoms of gastroparesis include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting, sometimes throwing up undigested food
  • belching
  • lack of appetite
  • weight loss
(Video) Heartburn is a burning feeling in the chest caused by stomach acid travelling up towards the throat.

Causes affecting women

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The following conditions that cause burning in the chest can affect anyone, but they’re more common in women.

15. Costochondritis

Costochondritis is inflammation of the cartilage that connects your rib to your breastbone (sternum). It may be caused by an injury or arthritis, but sometimes the cause isn’t clear.

The pain can feel similar to that of a heart attack — pressure or sharp pain on the left side of your chest. The pain may get worse when you take a deep breath or cough.

Because of the similarities between costochondritis and a heart attack, you should see your doctor right away if you’re experiencing these symptoms.

16. Gallstones

Gallstones are hard deposits that form in your gallbladder. Your gallbladder’s job is to release bile into your small intestine to help digest food.

Up to 15 percent of adults — or 25 million Americans — will get gallstones at some point in their lives. Some gallstones don’t cause any symptoms. But if they get stuck in a duct and cause a blockage, you’ll feel a sudden and intense pain, often in the center or right side of your abdomen. The pain may spread to your shoulder or upper back.

The pain from a gallbladder attack can last from a few minutes to a few hours. You might have nausea and vomiting along with the pain.

The following conditions can affect anyone, but it’s more common in men.

17. Pericarditis

Pericarditis is inflammation of the pericardium. This is the multilayered tissue that surrounds the heart and holds it in place in your chest. Infections and autoimmune diseases can cause pericarditis.

With pericarditis, you’ll feel the pain in the middle or left side of your chest. It’s sharp, stabbing, and it comes on quickly. The pain eases up when you sit up and lean forward, and it may get worse when you lie down or breathe in deeply.

Other symptoms include:

  • trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  • coughing
  • weakness
  • fast or fluttering heartbeat
  • skipped heartbeats
  • fatigue
  • swelling in the stomach and legs

Because the symptoms of pericarditis are similar to those of a heart attack, you should seek immediate medical attention if you’re unsure of your symptoms.

When to see your doctor

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Any chest pain is worth noting — and reporting to your doctor if it doesn’t go away.

You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience shortness of breath, fast or irregular heartbeat, or dizziness alongside your chest pain. Even if the cause turns out to be nothing serious, you don’t want to take any chances.

FAQs

What is a burning chest a symptom of? ›

It is usually due to heartburn or other gastrointestinal issues, but injuries and panic attacks can also cause a burning chest. More serious conditions, such as a heart attack or aortic dissection, can also cause a burning chest. Anyone experiencing symptoms of these issues should seek medical attention.

Why does a 17 year old have chest pain? ›

In most cases, chest pain in children and teenagers is not caused by a heart problem. The most common cause of chest pain in children and teenagers is chest wall pain. “Chest wall” is a term for the structures that enclose and protect the lungs, including the ribs and sternum.

When should I go to the ER for a chest burn? ›

Calling 911 for Chest Pain

A visit to the ER for chest pain can be life-saving. When your chest pain persists, is severe, or is accompanied by shortness of breath, nausea, radiating pain, and changes in heart rate and blood pressure, call 911 immediately.

How do I get my chest to stop burning? ›

What are the treatments for a chest burning sensation?
  1. eat smaller meals.
  2. avoiding eating 3–4 hours before bedtime.
  3. avoiding fatty or spicy foods.
  4. avoid alcohol.
  5. avoid caffeine.

How do you relieve a burning chest? ›

Heartburn is uncomfortable, but you can find effective relief with home remedies, lifestyle changes, and over-the-counter (OTC) medications.
...
How can you prevent heartburn?
  1. Avoid eating right before bedtime. ...
  2. Limit alcohol consumption. ...
  3. Watch out for trigger foods. ...
  4. Quit smoking. ...
  5. Try relaxation exercises.

Are heart attacks common at 17? ›

Heart attack in teens is actually very rare. A child may have chest pain, but it's usually not related to heart disease.

Is heart disease common in 17 year olds? ›

Heart attacks in the teen years are rare. Heart disease in teens usually develops because of a congenital or genetic issue. It's not often that lifestyle choices cause heart disease to develop in adolescence. If heart disease does develop, it's often due to factors like obesity or drug use.

Can a 17 year old have heart problems? ›

So, yes, kids and teens can get heart disease and have heart attacks, although it's very rare and often a result of congenital heart defects. Still, young people in otherwise good health can start on the road to poor heart health without proper guidance.

How long can burning in chest last? ›

The uncomfortable symptoms of heartburn can last for two hours or longer, depending on the cause. Mild heartburn that occurs after eating spicy or acidic food typically lasts until the food has been digested. Heartburn symptoms may also return several hours after they first appeared if you bend over or lie down.

How long can burning chest pain last? ›

If you've got a burning feeling in your chest just behind your breastbone that starts after you eat, it might be heartburn. The symptoms could last from a few minutes to several hours. Heartburn begins when stomach acid splashes up into your esophagus, a tube that connects the back of your throat and stomach.

How do I know if my heartburn is serious? ›

Here's when to call a doctor:
  1. Frequent/constant heartburn or heartburn everyday. ...
  2. Abdominal Pain. ...
  3. Hiccup or cough. ...
  4. Difficulty Swallowing. ...
  5. Nausea or vomiting. ...
  6. Severe chest pain or pressure. ...
  7. Conclusion.
Apr 8, 2022

Is chest burn serious? ›

Chest pain may be a symptom of a heart attack. Seek help right away if you have severe chest pain or pressure, especially when combined with pain in the arm or jaw or difficulty breathing. Make an appointment with your health care provider if: Heartburn occurs more than twice a week.

Why is my chest burning non stop? ›

Heartburn is the most frequent cause of a burning sensation in the chest. Heart pain and discomfort are often associated with these conditions; however, other severe reasons for developing a burning sensation in the chest may include a stomach ulcer, pulmonary embolism, or a panic attack.

Is chest burn normal? ›

It can be a symptom of a condition such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or simply a side effect of something you ate. Other causes of a burning sensation in your chest include anxiety and inflammation in the body and certain medical conditions involving the heart, lungs, and intestines.

Can anxiety cause chest pain? ›

How anxiety causes chest pain. When you're anxious, your brain sends a surge of adrenaline and cortisol through your body. These hormones immediately trigger a rapid rise in your heart rate and blood pressure. As a result, many people experience chest pain and sweating, or have a hard time breathing.

What age does heart disease start? ›

Heart disease—and the conditions that lead to it—can happen at any age. High rates of obesity and high blood pressure among younger people (ages 35–64) are putting them at risk for heart disease earlier in life.

How do you know if you have heart problems? ›

Chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure and chest discomfort (angina) Shortness of breath. Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper belly area or back. Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in the legs or arms if the blood vessels in those body areas are narrowed.

Can a 17 year old have clogged arteries? ›

Arterial blockage was found in 2 percent of the 15- to 19-year-old boys who were studied, and in about 20 percent of the men ages 20 to 34. Even though a small number of the teen-agers had clogged arteries, researchers were surprised to see any at all.

Can your heart fail at 18? ›

Though uncommon, a person in their 20s can develop heart failure. According to a 2014 review that looked at 20 years of data in Sweden, about 1% of the total hospitalizations for heart failure occurred in people between the ages of 18–44 years.

How do I know if my child has a heart problem? ›

Warning signs and symptoms of heart disease in children

Shortness of breath and feeling tired or weak easily. The presence of a grayish-blue or purple color of skin e.g. lips, mucous membranes and nails. Heart palpitations, rapid heartbeats, dizziness and frequent syncope that might be caused by heart rhythm problems.

How do I know if my chest pain is serious? ›

Heart-related chest pain
  1. Pressure, fullness, burning or tightness in your chest.
  2. Crushing or searing pain that spreads to your back, neck, jaw, shoulders, and one or both arms.
  3. Pain that lasts more than a few minutes, gets worse with activity, goes away and comes back, or varies in intensity.
  4. Shortness of breath.
Oct 20, 2021

Can a 17 year old have heart palpitations? ›

They can be caused by a variety of factors, including: being startled, frightened or under stress. Cold, allergy, and asthma medications; herbal supplements and other drugs, caffeine and alcohol can also cause heart palpitations.

Can teens get heart attacks? ›

Any teenager can have a heart attack, and the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends screening all children, not just those involved in sports, during pediatrician visits.

Can heart problems cause burning in chest? ›

An indigestion-type pain or a burning sensation in your chest or stomach can be a sign of a heart attack or related heart problem.

What is the difference between chest pain and chest burn? ›

Heartburn typically includes a burning sensation that starts in the upper part of the stomach and radiates to the chest. A heart attack typically includes an uncomfortable sensation in the center or left side of the chest that's sometimes described as pressure, squeezing, or a “fullness.”

Is heartburn a red flag? ›

When a patient complains of subtle bloating and heartburn, typically doctors diagnose them with high stomach acid and prescribe acid-blockers.

Does drinking water help heartburn? ›

Sometimes, when heartburn symptoms set in, a few sips of water will bring relief. This can be the result of water neutralizing acids and washing them out of the esophagus. Water has a pH that, at 7, is neutral. This dilutes the more acidic stomach fluids, bringing relief.

What are the 6 symptoms of heartburn? ›

6 Symptoms Of Acid Reflux You Should Not Ignore
  • Though some people are most at risk—pregnant women, smokers, and those who are overweight or obese—acid reflux and GERD can happen to anyone. ...
  • Heartburn. ...
  • Regurgitation. ...
  • Sour taste in the mouth. ...
  • Difficulty swallowing. ...
  • Chronic cough. ...
  • Hoarseness or sore throat.
May 28, 2016

Why does my chest hurt im 18? ›

The most common causes of acute chest pain in young adults presenting to the emergency department are chest wall pain (costochondritis) and anxiety (panic disorder). A 12-lead ECG and chest radiograph are usually the only ancillary tests required to evaluate chest pain in otherwise healthy young adults.

Can growing pains be in the chest? ›

Probably the most common forms of chest pain in kids are related to some irritation in the chest wall or the musculoskeletal system. People will use the term growing pains and I think this usually represents costochondritis or inflammation of the joints between the ribs and the breastbone.

What are the red flags for chest pain? ›

Red flags in chest pain
  • Sudden onset.
  • Exertional chest pain.
  • Substernal or left-sided pain.
  • Radiation to the left arm, jaw, and/or back.
  • Quality of chest pain: crushing, pressure , tearing, and/or ripping.
  • Associated symptoms: shortness of breath, diaphoresis, nausea, and/or vomiting.
Nov 8, 2022

What are the 3 common causes of chest pain? ›

The most common causes of pleuritic chest pain are bacterial or viral infections, pulmonary embolism, and pneumothorax. Other less common causes include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and cancer. Pneumonia or lung abscess. These lung infections can cause pleuritic and other types of chest pain, such as a deep chest ache.

How long is too long for chest pain? ›

Call 911 or have someone take you to the closest emergency room right away if you have chest pain that lasts longer than five minutes and doesn't go away when you rest or take medication. Cardiac chest pain can be life-threatening. Chest pain can be a sign of a heart attack.

Do 18 year olds have heart attacks? ›

“I only see a very young patient with a heart attack probably once or twice a year,” says Dr. Husain. “It's very rare.” But research, presented at the 2019 conference of the American College of Cardiology, spotlights an alarming trend: a rising incidence of heart attacks in younger adults.

Do people have heart attacks at 18? ›

Heart attacks are on the rise in patients aged 20-30 years old. Not long ago, heart attacks were primarily a problem faced by older adults. It was rare for anyone younger than 40 to have a heart attack. Now 1 in 5 heart attack patients are younger than 40 years of age.

What causes chest pain in a 16 year old? ›

Causes of Chest Pain in Children

Anxiety. Asthma. Costochondritis (inflammation of joints between ribs and breastbone) Muscle strain.

Why would my chest hurt in the middle? ›

The most common causes of pleuritic chest pain are bacterial or viral infections, pulmonary embolism, and pneumothorax. Other less common causes include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and cancer. Pneumonia or lung abscess. These lung infections can cause pleuritic and other types of chest pain, such as a deep chest ache.

How long do heart attacks last? ›

Mild heart attack symptoms might only occur for two to five minutes then stop with rest. A full heart attack with complete blockage lasts much longer, sometimes for more than 20 minutes.

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