Angina symptoms and treatment

Angina, or angina pectoris, is a form of chest discomfort caused by a decreased blood oxygen supply to an area of the heart muscle. The most common cause is a narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries because of atherosclerosis. The onset of angina often occurs during or immediately after exertion. Other triggers may include emotional stress, heavy meals, extreme cold or heat, alcohol, or cigarette smoking. In times like these, the heart muscle necessitates more blood oxygen than the narrowed arteries can give. Don’t get confused— angina is not necessarily the beginning of a heart attack; most of the time the pain is only temporary. When it becomes less temporary is when you should worry about a heart attack. Rarely does angina leave permanent damage. Angina simply means that there are other underlying issues of coronary heart disease. People with angina experience episodes that should be very similar in length; when they become more varied, that is when you should be worried about your risk for a heart attack. Recognizing these symptoms is the first step to being able to do any kind of treatment. Let’s take a look at both of these.

Types of Angina
Stable Angina – Stable angina is brought on after extreme physical exertion. The blood vessels supplying the heart become narrowed and so they restrict blood supply. The pain lasts for only a few minutes, and goes away with rest, but if the exertion is continued, the pain will likely continue.

Unstable Angina – Unstable angina means that the pain will come on with only a little bit of effort, say for example, after taking a few steps. This type of angina occurs when one of the blood vessels supplying the heart becomes so narrowed that your risk for a heart attack greatly increases. If sudden chest pain occurs, or you find it coming on with less and less exertion, seek medical attention.

Variant Angina – This is a type of angina that is very rare and occurs without warning: what happens is that a coronary artery spasms and it can lead to abnormal heart rhythms.

Symptoms of Angina
Being able to distinguish between a heart attack and angina can be difficult, except angina goes away within 1- 15 minutes and a heart attack does not go away for 4-6 hours. Those who experience angina may have different symptoms than the next person, but this is ok. However, everyone feels a pressing or squeezing pain in the chest under the breast bone; sometimes this pressure can be felt in the upper abdomen, neck, shoulders, arms, jaw, or back. The intensity may range from mild to severe. It is usually relieved within a few minutes or after taking a medication. The symptoms that vary only accompany the chest discomfort. They include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • A feeling of indigestion or heartburn
  • Palpitations
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Sweating, or cold sweaty skin
  • Nausea
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Pale skin
  • Feeling of impending doom

Angina Pectoris Treatment
The treatment for angina can include medication and/or surgery.

Medicines include:

  • Nitroglycerin
  • Blood thinners, such as aspirin and clopidogrel
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs
  • Blood pressure medications, such as calcium channel blockers, beta blockers, and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • For patients who don’t respond to the traditional angina treatment, there is Ranolazine, which should be used in combination with other medications.


  • A cardiac rehabilitation program might be recommended by your doctor to improve fitness.
  • Surgery
  • Some patients need more treatment than just medication; they might need surgery to increase blood flow through the coronary arteries.
    • Angioplasty—this type of surgery has proven more effective alongside medication.
    • Coronary artery bypass grafting
Last updated on Jan 2nd, 2011 and filed under Cardiovascular Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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