Chest pain can be a scary feeling! Although it may be due to seemingly harmless and manageable conditions such as gastritis and peptic ulcers, in some cases it can be a symptom of a serious condition such as injured ribs or a heart attack. Thus, it is always better to err on the side of caution and seek medical attention when you have chest pain. 

One such type of chest pain is angina. Let’s find out more about it. 

What is Angina?

Angina, also called angina pectoris, is a feeling of pain, pressure, or tightness in the chest. The feeling may last for a few minutes. Angina is a symptom of heart disease. 

It happens due to a tightening of your heart muscle when your heart needs more oxygen-rich blood than your body can supply. 

How is Angina Caused?

Angina is a symptom of an underlying heart disease and not a condition in itself. It is caused by a reduction in blood flow to your heart muscle, usually due to coronary artery disease (CAD), in which a fatty substance called plaque builds up in your arteries, blocking blood flow to the heart muscle. This forces your heart to work with less oxygen, resulting in angina pain. 

Angina may also be caused by:

  • Coronary Microvascular Disease: A condition in which damage to the inner walls of the coronary artery blood vessels decreases blood flow to the heart muscle and leads to spasms.

  • Coronary Spasms: A condition in which coronary arteries constrict or spasm on and off, and cause a temporary lack of blood supply to the heart muscle.

What Are The Symptoms of Angina?

Angina presents as pain or pressure in the chest, which may radiate to your arms, neck, jaw, shoulder or back. Some people may describe it as squeezing, burning, or fullness in the chest. 

Along with angina, you may also experience the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Fatigue

  • Sweating

  • Dizziness

  • Abdominal pain

  • Indigestion

  • Nausea and vomiting

What Are The Types of Angina?

There are 4 different types of angina based on the underlying cause: 

  • Stable Angina: This is the most common type of angina, which is triggered by physical exertion or stress. This occurs when the heart muscle itself does not get the blood flow required for its proper functioning when one indulges in moderate activity. It usually lasts for a few minutes and goes away when you rest. 

  • Unstable Angina: This type of chest pain can happen even when you are at rest or are not very active. The pain can be unexpected, strong, and long-lasting. It is usually due to a blood clot in the artery or as the result of the accumulation of fats (cholesterol) along the arteries, leading to reduced blood flow to the heart muscle. It can be a warning signal of a heart attack.

  • Prinzmetal's Variant Angina (PVA): This type of angina is rare and is caused by coronary spasms. The spasms and angina happen commonly at night while you are sleeping or resting. 

  • Microvascular Angina: This type of angina may be a symptom of coronary microvascular disease (MVD). This happens due to spasms of the smaller blood vessels of the heart, causing a reduction in blood flow.

Angina is treated by treating the underlying heart condition. Treatment includes medications, lifestyle changes, angioplasty (a procedure used to widen narrowed arteries or veins) and stenting (the placement of a tiny tube in a blocked passageway to restore the flow of blood), or surgery. 

Remember, any kind of unexplained chest pain should be checked out by a doctor. Unstable angina is a medical emergency that needs to be treated immediately to prevent a heart attack.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.