Angina: Types and Causes

By: Jody Smith

Angina is caused by an insufficient blood supply to your heart, resulting in a sense of pressure, chest discomfort or pain. Maybe you might misinterpret it as indigestion. Angina may be accompanied by pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw or shoulders.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease, and angina is one of its symptoms, according to the MedlinePlus website. Coronary artery disease brings with it a buildup of plaque in the arteries. This reduces the blood flow to the heart, which leads to angina.

According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website, angina can be a symptom of coronary heart disease (CHD). Plaque causes coronary arteries to become stiff and narrowed.

The buildup of plaque in the arteries can rupture causing a blood clot to form. If the clot is large enough, the artery becomes occluded, which leads to a heart attack.

Coronary microvascular disease (MVD) can cause angina. MVD is also known as non-obstructive CHD and cardiac syndrome X.

Microvascular disease does not involve blockage from plaque. There is damage or disease in the small coronary arteries. More women than men are liable to have coronary MVD.

Angina comes in several forms. Unstable angina is as its name suggests, it has no pattern to it, and can seem to come out of nowhere, even when there has been no apparent duress or stress. Drugs and rest do not relieve it. And unstable angina can be a precursor to heart attack.

Stable angina is the most common form of angina, and it has a pattern to it. You'll have some idea how often it will happen, how it's triggered for you, and how bad it can be.

This predictability in its pattern allows you to be proactive. You can rest, and have your medicine at hand at appropriate times and situations.

The heart is having to work harder, but stable angina is not a heart attack. It may be an early warning that a heart attack may occur later however.

Variant angina is also known as Prinzmetal's angina. This is a rare form, caused by a spasm in one of the heart's coronary arteries. Exertion is not a factor, as variant angina most often occurs when you are not active, generally between midnight and early morning. Extreme pain can accompany this type of angina. It may respond to medication.

It affects the small coronary arteries of the heart. Relief may not come with medication. Angina is not the cause of all chest pain. But chest pain is a good reason to see your doctor.

Sources:

Angina

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/angina.html

What Is Angina?

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/angina/

Angina: Symptoms

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/angina/DS00994/DSECTION=symptoms

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