Angina Pectoris Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
What is the Angina pectoris?
Angina is temporary chest pain or discomfort that occurs when oxygen-carrying blood does not reach the heart muscle. The term “angina” refers to pain, while “pectoris” means the chest. Angina symptoms vary. Sometimes you feel heartburn, similar to what you might feel after eating a heavy meal. If you feel this pain often, it may refer to heart disease which can become complex with passage of time.
What causes angina?
Angina is usually a sign that you have heart disease, specifically a blockage of one or more of the main blood vessels that supply the heart muscle, known as the coronary arteries. Women can have blockages in the very small arteries that branch off from the coronary arteries.
Angina pectoris is the most common symptom of heart disease. In the United States, approximately millions of people suffer from angina. An angina attack occurs when a blocked blood vessel prevents adequate blood flow, or when there is a spasm of the vessel causing reduced blood flow to the heart muscle. The cramp often occurs at rest and usually occurs at night.
Does it cause angina or aggravate the condition of the heart?
Angina usually does not cause any damage to the heart. Angina is more than a warning sign and can mean an increased risk of a heart attack. Whether you’re walking uphill, having a heated argument with your partner, or eating a five-course meal, angina is your heart’s way of telling you it’s working too hard and not getting enough blood and oxygen.
What are the symptoms of angina pectoris?
Although they differ from person to person, these are the typical symptoms:
Sharp or dull pain, squeezing, squeezing, or burning in the chest
Pain in the arms, neck, jaw, shoulder or back with chest discomfort (these symptoms usually occur during physical exertion, emotional stress or eating)
- Tingling, pain or numbness in the elbows, arms or wrists (especially the left arm)
- Breathing difficulty
- Symptoms of angina in women may include shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or stabbing pain in the chest.
How is angina diagnosed?
Your health care provider (HCP) can tell if you have angina by looking at your symptoms and doing a stress test, which usually means walking on a treadmill.
You’ll be connected to an electrocardiogram (EKG), which measures the electrical activity of the heart before, during and after the stress test. Your blood pressure will also be monitored at all times. Characteristic changes on the electrocardiogram occur if heart disease is present, but since the stress test is for screening, you may need other tests, such as a nuclear scan or angiography. In an angiogram, a dye is injected into the blood and an X-ray of the heart and its blood vessels is taken.
How is angina treated?
The usual medication for an angina attack is nitroglycerin that is placed under the tongue. It helps widen the blood vessels so that more blood can reach the heart. Nitroglycerin is also available in tablet or patch form to prevent symptoms. Please note: Anyone taking nitroglycerin should avoid using Viagra (sildenafil), as it may cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure.
After undergoing a complete evaluation, your doctor may prescribe other medications, such as beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers, which may also help prevent angina. Your doctor may also ask you to take aspirin regularly, which reduces your blood’s ability to clot. This allows blood to flow more easily through narrowed arteries.
What do I do if I have an angina attack?
Most people who have been diagnosed with angina pectoris are prescribed nitroglycerin tablets. It should always be with you or near you. Keep it in different places at home and at work.
Sit back and, if you aren’t already, put a tablet under your tongue to dissolve it. Nitroglycerin can cause dizziness, so it is important to take it while you are sitting down and get up slowly as soon as you feel better.
The American Heart Association recommends taking nitroglycerin tablets. If the pain does not improve or worsens after five minutes, immediately call 911 for an ambulance in case you have a heart attack. Once you call emergency services, you may be asked to repeat your nitroglycerin dose up to two more times every five minutes.