What is Angina Pectoris?

Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 February 2020
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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Angina pectoris is a type of chest pain which occurs when the heart is not getting enough blood. In an angina attack, the patient typically feels as though his or heart is being squeezed in a vise, and the intense pain may radiate across the left side of the body. After a few minutes of rest, the angina resolves, as the heart gets the blood supply it needs. This condition can be caused by a number of underlying heart problems, and it indicates that someone is at increased risk of a heart attack.

One of the most common causes of this type of pain is coronary heart disease. Congenital malformations of the heart and certain other conditions can also cause angina pectoris. There are several different forms of angina, each of which requires a different treatment approach. Stable angina occurs when someone stresses the heart with a physical effort, such as running up a flight of stairs, and it can be managed with lifestyle changes and medication. Variant angina, treatable with drugs, occurs when someone is at rest, and unstable angina can occur at any time. Unstable angina is extremely dangerous and difficult to treat.


Because people tend to pay attention to heart pain, they usually seek medical treatment for angina. Usually, a doctor will conduct some diagnostic tests to look at the heart, and the patient may be asked to complete a stress test to bring on an attack of angina pectoris so that the doctor can learn more about the patient's individual case. After evaluating the patient, the doctor can make treatment recommendations.

Drugs can be used to manage angina pectoris while it is occurring, and preventative measures can include certain medications or specific exercise regimes. When the condition which causes the angina pectoris is correctable, the doctor may recommend a correction to prevent a heart attack. The patient also usually needs to be closely monitored by a cardiologist for signs of changes in his or her cardiovascular health.

At onset, angina pectoris can feel a great deal like a heart attack. However, angina will resolve in a few minutes with rest or medication, while a heart attack will cause increasing pain which does not relent. In either case, medical treatment is necessary. In the case of angina, a doctor needs to evaluate the patient to determine the cause and formulate an approach to long term care, and in a heart attack, the patient needs immediate medical attention to prevent serious damage or death.



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