When the heart does not receive sufficient oxygen-rich blood flowing through it, discomfort and chest pain result. This chest pain is called “angina.” Some people describe angina as pressure or a tightness in their chest. Angina is not a disease. Rather, angina is a symptom of other issues occurring with the heart, usually coronary heart disease.
Different Types of Angina
There are several types of angina. Angina pectoris is one common type of angina. Other types include stable angina, unstable angina, variant (Prinzmetal’s) angina, microvascular angina, and atypical angina. Different types of angina have different symptoms and different triggers that cause the symptoms.
Stable angina describes angina pectoris. This type of angina occurs in connection with coronary heart disease when the heart is deprived of sufficient amounts of blood. This situation typically occurs due to the narrowing of coronary arteries. Blocked arteries may enable sufficient blood flow to the heart during periods of rest or light physical exertion. However, when the heart must pump faster to keep up with more physical exertion, the narrowed arteries will not allow enough blood to flow through them and angina (chest discomfort) will occur.
Unstable angina is also considered an “acute coronary syndrome.” With unstable angina, chest pain occurs unexpectedly, even at rest. The disease that occurs with stable angina has progressed to the point of not being stable or predictable. Atherosclerosis, a fatty buildup in coronary arteries, may lead to a rupture. This could completely block blood flow to the heart. Unstable angina is an emergency situation that could lead to a heart attack.
Variant Angina (Prinzmetal’s Angina)
Variant or Prinzmetal’s angina is an uncommon type of angina, typically occurring in younger people. Variant angina usually happens while a person is sleeping during the overnight hours. This type of angina is exceedingly painful, and it occurs from a spasm of the coronary arteries.
Microvascular angina is often associated with coronary microvascular disease. This type of heart disease involves the smallest blood vessels of the heart. When these tiny blood vessels spasm, or become blocked, the flow of blood to the heart becomes restricted. This restriction causes angina symptoms.
Some people experience angina that does not fit the normal symptom parameters. This type of angina is called atypical angina. The symptoms of atypical angina include an indistinct discomfort in the chest, nausea, fatigue, indigestion, shortness of breath, and pain in the neck and back. Women usually experience atypical angina more than men do.
What are the Symptoms of Angina?
Angina typically involves a group of symptoms. If pain or pressure in the chest lasts more than a moment or two and does not subside with rest, get medical assistance immediately.
- Sharp or indistinct chest pain
- Pain in the shoulders, arms, neck, or jaw
- Chest pressure
- Burning or nagging indigestion
- Shortness of breath
Other Symptom Resources
- Angina Overview This web page presents information about angina symptoms, diagnosis, risk factors, and treatment.
- Angina Pectoris Explore the different types of coronary artery disease and the classification of angina pectoris on this web page.
- Description of Angina Pectoris Learns common risk factors for people developing angina pectoris on this web page.
- Chest Pain of Angina can be a Symptom of Coronary Artery Disease This web page presents comprehensive information about angina pectoris.
- What is Angina Pectoris View a video or read a transcript that explains the causes of angina pectoris.
- Cardiac Medications Used To Treat Angina Pectoris Learn about the different types of angina and medications used to treat them on this web page.
- Angina Pectoris The main goals of treatment in angina pectoris are to relieve the symptoms, slow the progression of the disease, and reduce the possibility of future events, especially MI and premature death.
- Unstable Angina Watch a video on this web page that explains unstable angina, its symptoms, and treatment options.
- Angina Overview Cedars-Sinai presents information about angina, including symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.
- Angina Pectoris Learn the difference between angina and a heart attack on this web page.
- Signs and Symptoms of Coronary Heart Disease This web page presents an overview of coronary heart disease, explaining angina as the most frequent symptom of coronary heart disease.
- Medication vs. Stents for Heart Disease Treatment Explore different treatment options for patients with stable angina on this web page.