Uh oh, chest pain from heart attack vs. esophagitis can be “very difficult to distinguish,” says a gastroenterologist.

“Esophagitis, inflammation of the esophagus, can cause severe chest pain,” says Gastroenterologist Larry Good, MD in practice for 40+ years and with a private practice in Lynbrook, NY, and is affiliated with Concierge Choice Physicians, a leading provider of personalized care in the U.S.

Why can the severe chest pain of esophagitis mimic that of a heart attack?

Dr. Good explains, “The esophagus, heart and airways are all served by the vagus nerve which can send signals to the brain from these organs.

“This is called six dermatone pain, corresponding to the sensory innervation of the organs in the chest cavity.

“Because of this, it can be very difficult to distinguish between pain that derives from the heart, the esophagus and the lungs.”

Wow, that’s scary. You’d think that nature would have devised a way for the brain to tell the difference, to be able to interpret pain signals unique to the heart, to the esophagus and to the lungs.

Instead, chest pain from esophagitis and the heart (and lungs) can feel the same across the board.

What makes this more frightening is when patients know that there’s no reason for them to have a low risk of heart attack.

For instance, the patient doesn’t exercise and is overweight; or smokes and has diabetes; or may be thin but has a junk food diet and never so much as goes on fitness walks.

So when that chest pain strikes—which may actually be esophagitis in that person—they fear the worst. So what should you do?

How about getting a complete cardiology exam…before your next or first incidence of unexplained chest pain?

See what a cardiologist says about your heart. If you have chest pain history, also see a gastroenterologist to discuss esophagitis.

dr. good

Dr. Good has additional expertise in the diagnosis/treatment of IBS and inflammatory bowel disease, and is extremely proactive in genetic testing, individualization of pharmacologic treatment, and risk mitigation in cancer screening/prevention. Concierge Choice Physicians
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  

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Top image: Shutterstock/ PrinceOfLove