Sharp pain in the left side of the chest that comes and goes can be caused by a variety of conditions, some of which are more serious than others. It is important to see a doctor to determine the cause of your pain and get the appropriate treatment.
Common causes of sharp pain in the left side of the chest that comes and goes:
- Costochondritis: Costochondritis is inflammation of the cartilage that connects the ribs to the sternum. It is a common cause of sharp chest pain that can occur on either side of the chest. Costochondritis is often caused by overuse or repetitive strain, such as lifting heavy objects or coughing.
- Angina: Angina is chest pain caused by a lack of blood flow to the heart muscle. It is a symptom of coronary artery disease, which is a buildup of plaque in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Angina pain can be sharp or dull, and it can come and go. It is often triggered by exertion or stress.
- Pericarditis: Pericarditis is inflammation of the pericardium, the sac that surrounds the heart. It can be caused by a viral infection, a heart attack, or other medical conditions. Pericarditis pain is often sharp and stabbing, and it can be worse when lying down or taking a deep breath.
- Pleurisy: Pleurisy is inflammation of the pleura, the lining of the lungs. It can be caused by a viral infection, pneumonia, or other medical conditions. Pleurisy pain is often sharp and stabbing, and it can be worse when breathing in deeply or coughing.
- Anxiety: Anxiety attacks can cause a variety of physical symptoms, including chest pain. Anxiety chest pain is often sharp and stabbing, and it may be accompanied by other symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, and sweating.
Less common causes of sharp pain in the left side of the chest that comes and goes:
- Hiatal hernia: A hiatal hernia is a condition in which part of the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm into the chest. Hiatal hernias can cause a variety of symptoms, including chest pain, heartburn, and difficulty swallowing.
- Aortic dissection: An aortic dissection is a life-threatening condition in which the inner layer of the aorta, the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body, tears. Aortic dissection pain is often sharp and severe, and it may radiate to the back or neck.
- Pulmonary embolism: A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that travels to the lungs. Pulmonary embolism pain is often sharp and sudden, and it may be accompanied by shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing.
When to see a doctor
It is important to see a doctor if you experience sharp pain in the left side of your chest, especially if the pain is severe, comes and goes, or is accompanied by other symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, or sweating.
Your doctor will perform a physical examination and ask you about your medical history and symptoms. They may also order tests such as an electrocardiogram (EKG), echocardiogram (EKG), or chest X-ray to help determine the cause of your pain.
The treatment for sharp pain in the left side of the chest will depend on the underlying cause. For example, costochondritis may be treated with rest, over-the-counter pain relievers, and physical therapy. Angina may be treated with medications to improve blood flow to the heart, such as nitroglycerin or beta-blockers. Pericarditis may be treated with anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or colchicine. Pleurisy may be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers and rest.
If you experience sharp pain in the left side of your chest, it is important to see a doctor to determine the cause and get the appropriate treatment.