Common causes of breastbone pain include coronary artery disease, pulmonary embolism and gastroesophageal reflux disease, according to WebMD. Breastbone pain is often caused by heart problems such as coronary artery disease, which occurs when the heart does not receive enough oxygen.
Coronary artery disease is the narrowing of the coronary arteries and is typically caused by a buildup of cholesterol and plaque on the inner walls of the arteries, notes Cleveland Clinic. The buildup of cholesterol and fatty deposits restricts blood flow to the heart, resulting in oxygen deprivation and chest pain, called angina. The pain is likely to occur when the heart demands extra oxygen, such as during eating, excitement and physical exertion.
Pulmonary embolism occurs when an artery in the lungs has a blockage, explains MedlinePlus. The blockage is typically due to a blood clot that has dislodged in another part of the body and traveled to the lungs. The breastbone pain that accompanies the condition is sharp and usually gets worse with deep breathing. Other symptoms of pulmonary embolism include dizziness, low blood pressure, increased heart rate and leg pain.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a digestive disorder that occurs when stomach acids flow backward into the esophagus and cause inflammation, according to Drugs.com. Doctors call the pain that is associated with the disease "heartburn," which is a burning pain behind the breastbone that gets worse after eating. Other symptoms that patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease experience include nausea, difficulty swallowing and a recurring sour taste in the mouth.