Angina (an-JI-nuh or AN-juh-nuh)
Angina is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when your heart muscle does not get enough blood. Angina may feel like pressure or a squeezing pain in your chest. The pain may also occur in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. It may also feel like indigestion.
Angina is a symptom of coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common type of Heart disease. CAD occurs when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries. This buildup of plaque is called Atherosclerosis. As plaque builds up, the coronary arteries become narrow and stiff. Blood flow to the heart is reduced. This decreases the oxygen supply to the heart muscle.
Types of Angina
Stable angina. Stable angina is the most common type. It occurs when the heart is working harder than usual.
- There is a regular pattern to stable angina.
- After several episodes, you learn to recognize the pattern and can predict when it will occur.
- The pain usually goes away in a few minutes when you rest or take your angina medicine.
- Stable angina is not a heart attack but makes it more likely that you will have a heart attack in the future.
Unstable angina. Unstable angina is a very dangerous condition that requires emergency treatment. It is a sign that a heart attack could occur soon. Unlike stable angina, it does not follow a pattern. It can occur without physical exertion and is not relieved by rest or medicine.
Variant angina. Variant angina is rare. It usually occurs at rest. The pain can be severe and usually occurs between midnight and early morning. It is relieved by medication.
Not all chest pain or discomfort is angina. Chest pain or discomfort can be caused by a Heart Attack, lung problems (such as an infection or a blood clot), heartburn, or a panic attack. However, all Chest pain should be checked by a doctor.
Revision date: July 8, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD