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What are the Most Common Causes of Chest Pain and Nausea?

By Summer Banks
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Chest pain and nausea can be linked to common activities like eating, drinking, and stress. While some people may immediately think that these symptoms are a sign of heart attack, they may be more often linked to caffeine overdose, heartburn, and GERD. Other causes may include a peptic ulcer, gastritis, and heart attack.

Caffeine is a stimulant and diuretic found in coffee, chocolate, and some herbal remedies. It is common for the average coffee drinker to consume about 200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine every day. When too much caffeine is consumed in a short period of time, it can lead to chest pain and nausea. Commonly called caffeine or coffee jitters, symptoms typically fade away within a few hours.

Heartburn is another common cause of these symptoms. This is a digestive disorder that may cause burning, pain, and difficulty swallowing. The stomach is located just behind the sternum at the lower midline of the rib cage, so when heartburn occurs, it can feel similar to a heart attack.

GERD, or gastrointestinal reflux disease occurs when stomach acids back up into the esophagus, causing burning, chest pain, and nausea. This condition is caused by Helicobactor pylori or H. pylori bacterium. Tests may be ordered to detect it, so proper treatment can be prescribed.

A peptic ulcer is when the stomach lining, or first segment of the small intestine, erodes. Medical professionals believe these ulcers are caused by certain medications or bacterial infections. A peptic ulcer is often compared to an open sore inside the stomach, and it can cause chest pain and nausea, as well as internal bleeding.

Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach lining that may be linked to alcoholism. Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen or aspirin, may also cause this condition. Symptoms usually include unexplained nausea, chest pain, and indigestion.

Chest pain and nausea can also be signs of a heart attack, so they shouldn't be ignored. When heart attack is treated within the first 20 to 40 minutes, the heart muscle can be preserved without damage, in most cases. When in doubt, medical professionals recommend that people experiencing chest pain head to a nearby emergency room or call emergency services.

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Discussion Comments
By burcidi — On Mar 28, 2013

@MikeMason-- Gallbladder issues can also cause these symptoms. My brother-in-law had nausea, chest pain and vomiting for months, it turned out he had gallbladder stones.

By discographer — On Mar 28, 2013

@MikeMason-- I experienced these symptoms all the time when I had GERD. I also thought that it was heart related at first because I have high blood pressure and heartburn really can mimic a mild heart attack. I had an EKG which confirmed that it was not heart related.

Then I got tested for bacteria and was diagnosed with h.pylori. Both my constant chest pain and nausea (and all other symptoms like stomach cramps, acid reflux and indigestion) disappeared after I was treated with antibiotics.

By stoneMason — On Mar 28, 2013

I've never heard of people having nausea while having a heart attack. I think when chest pain and nausea are seen together, it's almost always a stomach issue. I suppose there might be exceptions where the person is suffering from two different conditions at the same time.

Has anyone experienced chest pain and nausea together where the cause was not gastrointestinal?

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