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Angina - Overview

Angina is a heart condition that typically features chest pain or chest discomfort. The pain results from the narrowing or spasm of the coronary arteries. In angina there is an evident damage to the coronary arteries in a form of atherosclerosis. Only in cases of Prinzmetal's angina there may be no changes in structure of the coronary arteries and the pain may be induced by sudden spasm of the particular blood vessels.

There are three types of angina, stable angina, unstable angina and variant or Prinzmetal's angina. The most common type is stable angina which is typically associated with a specific amount of exertion or activity. The symptoms of stable angina subside with rest. In unstable angina there is unusual pattern of the attacks and the pain may also occur during rest or is induced by a lesser degree of exertion. The symptoms of unstable angina last longer and subside only after a patient is administered appropriate medication. And finally, variant angina, also known as Prinzmetal's angina, is associated with spasm of coronary arteries. The pattern of Prinzmetal's angina is distinctive. Namely, the symptoms and signs of Prinzmetal's angina typically occur at rest and without apparent cause. The patients commonly report the onset of symptoms at night and in the early morning hours. In this case of angina coronary blood vessels may show the presence of plaque.

More Information on Types of Angina

As it has already been mentioned, stable angina is the most prevalent type of angina. Stable angina can be easily predicted since it is typically induced by exercises and other increased physical activity such as running, walking or even climbing stairs. Even though the chest pain withdraws with rest, patients usually need to take certain medications to relieve the pain. The pain in stable angina does not last longer than 5 minutes. However, if the pain does not subside after that period of time and becomes stronger or even starts to radiate towards arms, jaw, back or shoulders this is an indicator of a heart attack and one must receive immediate medical help.

Unstable angina does not have to be triggered by physical activity. It is considered much more serious than stable angina and the symptoms may occur even during rest. The chest pain in unstable angina tends to last longer than in the stable form of the malady. The treatment includes medications and rest. In case of unstable angina there is severe narrowing of coronary arteries and the risk of heart attack is much higher.

Prinzmetal's or variant angina typically features with cardiac chest pain at rest that occurs in cycles. The underlying cause of variant angina is vasospasm, a narrowing of the coronary arteries that develops as a consequence of contraction of the smooth muscles in the vessels walls. Normally cases of prinzmetal's angina chest pain or discomfort are relieved by medications.

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