What is Angina?

Angina pectoris (most often just called angina) is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when a part of your heart doesn't get enough blood and oxygen. It can be a symptom of coronary artery disease (CAD). But it can have other causes.

What causes angina?

Angina occurs when your heart muscle (myocardium) does not get enough blood and oxygen. Not enough blood supply is called ischemia.

Angina can be a symptom of coronary artery disease (CAD). This is when arteries that carry blood to your heart become narrowed and blocked. This can happen because of:

  • Hardening of arteries (atherosclerosis)
  • A blood clot
  • Plaque in an artery that can rupture (unstable plaque)
  • Poor blood flow through a narrowed heart valve
  • Lessened pumping of the heart muscle
  • Coronary artery spasm

Other Forms of Angina

There are 2 other forms of angina. They are:

  • Microvascular angina: This used to be called Syndrome X. It causes chest pain with no coronary artery blockage. The pain is caused by from poor function of tiny blood vessels that lead to the heart, arms, and legs. It is more common in women.
  • Variant angina pectoris: This is also called Prinzmetal's angina. It is rare. It occurs almost only at rest, not after exercise or stress. It usually occurs between midnight and 8 a.m. It can be very painful. It is related to spasm of the artery. It is also more common in women.
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