Angina usually refers to the chest pain caused by the shortage of oxygenated blood in the heart muscles. It is mainly of three types – stable, unstable, and variant angina. Find out more about these three types of angina, and what can cause them, through this HealthHearty article.
Angina usually refers to angina pectoris. It signifies chest pain and the discomfort triggered by the insufficient supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscles. Along with chest pain, one can experience pain in the shoulder, back, arms, neck, and even in the jaw. The word angina pectoris is derived from the Greek words, ankhon, which means ‘strangling’ and pectus, which means ‘chest’. So, angina means a strangling sensation felt in the chest.
However, angina is actually not a disease, but a symptom of coronary artery disease (CAD). Coronary artery disease is generally caused by the deposition of fatty substances on the inner walls of the arteries. This makes the arteries narrow and stiff, which is known as arteriosclerosis. However, chest pain can also be caused by many other conditions, like pneumonia, pleuritis (inflammation of the lining of the lungs), pneumothorax (rupture of the alveoli of the lungs), etc. Angina can be of three types – stable, unstable, and variant, which are explained below.
It is the most prevalent type of angina, and is usually predictable, as it exhibits a definite pattern. It is commonly induced by exercise or activities like running or walking. The pain in the chest usually resolves after taking rest for a while. The chest pain usually lasts for 3 to 5 minutes, and it can radiate to other parts of the body, such as the arms, back, and the shoulders.
Unlike stable angina, it is not triggered by physical activities. Unstable angina is more severe than the stable form, and can occur even while taking rest. The chest pain can last for 10 or 15 minutes, and the pain cannot be cured by rest or medications. It does not follow a regular predictable pattern. Sometimes, it can be an indicator of an imminent heart attack.
This condition is also known as Prinzmetal’s angina. It can occur while you are resting or sleeping. The pain caused by this condition can be alleviated by taking the appropriate medications. It occurs usually between midnight and morning.
The most common cause of this condition is coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease is caused by the deposition of fatty substances or cholesterol inside the arteries. This can cause the formation of a hard and thick substance, known as cholesterol plaque, which makes the arteries narrow and stiff. This in turn, impedes the supply of blood to the heart and causes chest pain.
While doing an exercise or physical activity, the oxygen demand in the heart increases. But when the arteries become narrow due to the formation of cholesterol plaques, they fail to deliver enough oxygenated blood the heart to meet this demand. Another possible cause of angina (especially the variant form) is coronary artery spasm. The arterial wall is surrounded by muscle fibers, and their sudden contractions or spasms can narrow down the lumen of the arteries. This can reduce the ability of the arteries to supply adequate oxygenated blood to the heart muscles.
The most common symptoms of this condition are chest pain and discomforts like tightness, squeezing, and heaviness in the chest. Sometimes, the chest pain or discomfort is also accompanied by other symptoms, like pain in the upper abdomen, back, and the neck. Shortness of breath, nausea, and sweating may also be experienced by some individuals.
The treatment is basically aimed at relieving the symptoms of this condition, and slowing down its progression, i.e., reducing the risk of a heart attack. The medications that are usually used for treating this condition are, aspirin, beta blockers, nitroglycerine, calcium channel blockers, isosorbide mononitrate, and nicorandil.
People suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol have a higher risk of experiencing angina. Smoking can also raise the risk of developing this condition.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.