Doctors often treat people for diarrhea and chest pains, but they are rarely symptoms of one condition. However, chest pain can be a symptom of a heart attack, so a person experiencing chest pain with or without diarrhea may need to consult a doctor.
Only a few rare illnesses cause chest pain and diarrhea. For example, people with Whipple disease, a bacterial infection, may have both symptoms. Experts estimate the overall incidence as
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This article explores some conditions that may cause chest pain or diarrhea. It also highlights the signs of a heart attack and explains when to seek medical help.
Other causes of chest pain include:
- gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD)
- pulmonary embolism
- strained muscles, particularly the intercostal muscles that line the chest walls
- pneumothorax, or collapsed lung
- broken, or bruised ribs
- aortic dissection
Learn more about causes of chest pain.
Is it a heart attack?
Heart attacks occur when there is a lack of blood supply to the heart. Symptoms include:
- chest pain, pressure, or tightness
- pain that may spread to arms, neck, jaw, or back
- nausea and vomiting
- sweaty or clammy skin
- heartburn or indigestion
- shortness of breath
- coughing or wheezing
- lightheadedness or dizziness
- anxiety that can feel similar to a panic attack
If someone has these symptoms:
- Dial 911 or the number of the nearest emergency department.
- Stay with them until the emergency services arrive.
If a person stops breathing before emergency services arrive, perform manual chest compressions:
- Lock fingers together and place the base of hands in the center of the chest.
- Position shoulders over hands and lock elbows.
- Press hard and fast, at a rate of 100–120 compressions per minute, to a depth of 2 inches.
- Continue these movements until the person starts to breathe or move.
- If needed, swap over with someone else without pausing compressions.
Use an automatic external defibrillator (AED) available in many public places:
- An AED provides a shock that may restart the heart.
- Follow the instructions on the defibrillator or listen to the guided instructions.
Doctors diagnose a person with diarrhea if they pass loose, watery stools
Possible causes of diarrhea include:
- viral infections, including norovirus and viral gastroenteritis
- bacterial infections, including Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. coli
- parasitic infections, including Giardia
- food allergies and intolerances, including lactose and fructose intolerance
- reactions to some artificial sweeteners in sugar-free candies and sodas, such as sorbitol
- digestive disorders, including celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- reactions to some medications, including chemotherapy medications and antibiotics
- reactions to abdominal surgery
Chest pain is one of the telltale signs of a heart attack. Anyone experiencing pain, squeezing, or discomfort lasting more than a few minutes in the center or left-hand side of their chest
They should also seek medical help if the pain spreads across their jaw, neck, arms, and back or if they are experiencing shortness of breath.
- the diarrhea lasts longer than 2 days
- there is blood or pus in the stools
- stools look black and tarry
- they have severe abdominal pain
- they have very dark urine or are producing less urine than usual
- they develop fever
- they feel lightheaded or faint
Chest pain and diarrhea are common symptoms of different conditions. Only a few rare conditions link the two symptoms.
There are many reasons people experience chest pain and diarrhea. Anyone experiencing chest pain that lasts longer than a few minutes or keeps coming back must contact a doctor.
If a person has severe diarrhea for longer than 2 days or if they are becoming dehydrated, they will also require medical assistance.