One of the symptoms of a heart attack includes left arm pain but there are certain types of chest pain that can radiate down to the left arm as well. It is important to note that the nerves surrounding the chest area and the heart function differently than anywhere else in the body. Even though left arm pain does not always indicate a heart condition, it is not a symptom that you can simply ignore.
Always bear in mind that the nerve within and around the heart do not specifically pinpoint the precise location of pain. These nerves tend to react in a different way than the nerves in the extremities that hurt in the same place where an injury is sustained. Once an individual experiences chest pain and certain heart conditions such as angina or a heart attack, the pain is often felt in the jaw or arm. Take note that this type of pain is called as referred pain in which the neurotransmitters become confused and dictate the brain that a different part of the body hurts.
What are the possible causes?
There are many conditions that can cause arm pain that is connected with chest pain. The cardiac causes include a heart attack or an angina. Oftentimes, viral infections can lead to inflammation within and surrounding the heart, resulting to myocarditis and pericarditis.
Esophageal spasms can also cause chest pain as well as heartburn. Take note that both conditions can cause the pain to radiate to the left arm. Even lung conditions such as asthma or pulmonary embolism can lead to chest pain.
Important warning to bear in mind
A heart attack is considered is a dangerous condition that can cause left arm pain. In some cases, many mistake chest pain that radiates to the left arm as heartburn. If the left arm pain is accompanied by dizziness, sweating, shortness of breath and nausea, the individual must be provided with immediate emergency care.
What are the tests performed?
Since there are many conditions that can cause chest pain and left arm pain, the doctor will perform various tests to determine the exact cause. An electrocardiogram will check the heart and monitor the electrical activity. Blood tests will help reveal the enzyme levels. If the enzymes are higher than normal, the cause of arm pain can be determined.
Most of the time, an X-ray is performed on individuals who complain of left arm pain. This test will provide an image of the heart but also the lungs and blood vessels.
When it comes to heartburn, it is treated with over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs if it persists. In most cases, individuals can avoid heartburn by sticking to a diet that does not include fatty and acidic foods.
Those who experience angina usually receive medications such as nitroglycerin in order to quickly and momentarily widen the blood vessels. Individuals who suffer from left arm pain due to a heart attack would undergo cardiac bypass surgery or angioplasty.