Prinzmetal’s angina symptoms are chest pains accompanied by the sensation of squeezing or tightness. The following article provides with an overview of this condition.
Prinzmetal’s angina is a condition caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscle resulting in chest pain, pressure, or tightness. It derives its name from the researcher who first noted that coronary artery spasms were the cause of this pain. Among the different types of angina, this type is the most rare and is also called variant angina. A coronary artery spasm is an abnormal or involuntary constriction of the muscle in an artery of the heart. This spasm makes the artery contract and reduces the amount of blood it can supply to the heart. The symptoms of this condition are more likely to occur while you are at rest; they have no predictable pattern.
The pain of angina can be difficult to distinguish from other types of discomfort or chest pain such as that caused by indigestion. Another factor is that women may experience symptoms different from those of the classic Prinzmetal’s angina. Some of the characteristics of the chest pain caused by this condition are:
- Constricting, squeezing, tightness, pressure, or crushing feeling
- May be located under the chest bone
- Is usually very severe, and may feel like it is extending to the neck, jaw, shoulder, or arm
- Is likely to occur between 12:00 midnight and 8:00 a.m, at the same time each day
- Often occurs at rest and lasts for between 5 to 30 minutes
- May be relieved by angina medication
- Can cause fainting or loss of consciousness
The episodes of chest pain usually occur in clusters such as a frequent series lasting for a few months. Women may experience stabbing, pulsating, or sharp chest pains instead of the usual tightness. They are likely to feel nausea, shortness of breath, or abdominal pain along with any of the above-mentioned indicators.
The cause of coronary spasms is unknown. Contributing factors include problems with the thin lining of the blood vessels, which is called the endothelium. The artery lining produces a chemical (nitric oxide) which expands the blood vessels making blood flow easier. If the artery lining is damaged or isn’t working properly, the blood vessels may narrow and cause a coronary spasm. A problem in part of the nervous system could be another possible cause. Yet another possibility is that of the lining of the arteries being injured. Then the muscle tissue of the arteries may be exposed to chemicals that cause the blood vessels to narrow.
Prinzmetal’s angina is usually treated with medication. They may include nitroglycerin (NTG), long-acting nitrates, and calcium channel blockers which perform the function of widening or opening the blood vessels.
If a person responds to medication, the prognosis is very good. According to a study, 97% of the patients survived 5 years after being diagnosed with Prinzmetal’s angina, and 83% survived without having a heart attack. However, those with severe heart diseases have worse outcomes than those with less severe or no heart disease.
As these symptoms can have grave outcomes, one must try to reduce the risk. Steps to be taken for this purpose include quitting smoking, reducing chances of developing atherosclerosis, and minimizing exposure to cold and highly stressed situations since they can trigger spasms.