(Unstable Angina; Stable Angina; Angina Pectoris; Cardiac Angina; Variant Angina)
by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Angina is pain or discomfort in the chest. It often has a squeezing or pressure-like feel. This discomfort can also be felt in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaws, or back. Anginal pain usually lasts for no more than 2-10 minutes. It is relieved by rest or nitroglycerin.
Types of angina include:
Angina is usually a sign of coronary artery disease (CAD). It occurs when the blood vessels leading to your heart are narrowed or blocked. The blockage decreases the blood and oxygen flow to your heart. When your heart is deprived of oxygen, you will feel chest pain and other symptoms.
Stable or Unstable Angina
Angina occurs when your heart's need for blood and oxygen is increased by:
Stable angina becomes unstable when symptoms:
Variant or Prinzmetal's Angina
This type of angina is usually caused by a spasm of a heart vessel. It may indicate that you have one of the following conditions:
Risk Factors TOP
Major risk factors for CAD include the following:
Other risk factors for CAD:
The likelihood of a heart attack is increased when chest discomfort is severe, lasts more than 15 minutes, and is accompanied by other symptoms, such as:
Tests will be done right away to see if you are having an episode of angina or a heart attack. If you have a stable pattern of angina, other tests may be done to determine the extent of your disease. The test results will help to create a treatment plan.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include:
Treatments for angina include:
If you already have angina, you can prevent an onset by being aware of what starts it.
If you don't have angina, preventing the development of CAD may reduce your chance of getting the condition.
Steps to prevent CAD include managing risk factors:
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Heart Association
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Colege of Family Physicians of Canada
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Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Last Updated: 9/30/2013