Identifying Angina

Identifying Angina (Ischemic Chest Pain) Symptoms

Angina is a medical term that describes chest pain usually felt in the left upper chest, sometimes behind the sternum. Angina is also known as ischemic chest pain or ischemic heart disease. It can feel very similar to a heart attack, with squeezing or pressure in the chest. It is sometimes also known as Angina Pectoris or Angina Chronic.

It is usually caused by coronary atherosclerosis. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is one of the major causes of angina usually felt in the upper torso. When fatty deposits called atheroma accumulate in the walls of the coronary arteries, atherosclerosis occurs.

This causes a buildup of fat and cholesterol, narrowing the coronary arteries and depriving the heart of the oxygenated blood that it needs. When the arteries become narrowed by too much fat and cholesterol, they gradually lose their elasticity and the heart has to work harder to keep blood flowing to the heart.

Other causes of angina are

  • Emotional
  • Chemical
  • Physical stress

Stress from work, family, or other emotional or psychological factors can trigger or worsen unstable angina symptoms. Stable angina, on the other hand, is not caused by stress and is usually caused by physiological responses to physical activity. This includes adrenaline released during strenuous activities. Exercises can actually be a cause of unstable angina.

Physical strain or injury of the chest muscles may also cause chest pains

The discomfort is typically felt in the upper back, neck, and shoulder areas. Sometimes, the discomfort radiates to the arms or even down to the hands. If left untreated, chest pains may result in a heart attack or heart failure, which further complicate the condition.

Sometimes, the discomfort from the chest pains can be so severe that it might lead to a heart attack or a cardiac arrest. When the oxygen supply to the heart is cut off, the heart muscle is not capable of pumping enough blood to supply for itself, thereby putting pressure on the heart chambers and the heart muscle tissues.

As blood is not adequately supplied to these tissues, they begin to die, leading to cardiac arrest or even heart death. Patients with angina chest pain will sometimes try to ease the pain by taking Tylenol or aspirin, or by lying down on the floor.

But these treatments only make the pain worse by numbing it. This is not the best approach because it only makes things worse. Angina is a symptom, not a disease. So, if the pain persists despite all your efforts, then it is time to consult your physician.

To treat angina effectively, it is always advisable that you undergo diagnostic tests such as electrocardiograms (ECG), chest x-rays, blood tests, and a change in diet. You may feel like you are having a heart attack because there is increased pressure in your torso.

If this is the case, then you should get to see a doctor right away. There are medications available to relieve the discomfort and minimize the risk of a heart attack. But although there is no known cure, there are treatments for angina chest discomfort.

Treatment for Angina can either be conservative or aggressive

For more persistent cases of unstable angina, it is usually advisable to go for conventional treatment. Among the medications, you can take are beta-blockers, nitroglycerin, aspirin, and other non-drug therapies.

Also, if the discomfort from chest discomfort is not easing within a few days, then you should contact your doctor immediately. He will assess your condition and give you the appropriate medication.

If you have stable angina, then you will most likely not experience chest pain or discomfort. However, this is usually caused by physical exertion that has caused some damage to the blood vessels in your limbs.

If you exert yourself regularly, such as exercising, you will most likely be spared from experiencing discomfort. However, prolonged exertion can lead to severe chest pains or discomfort.

If you experience chest pain or discomfort even when you are at rest, then you probably have reactive angina. This is characterized by a faster onset of symptoms and faster removal of the symptoms once they are experienced. Medication relieves the discomfort but does not alleviate the symptoms completely.

Reactive angina is often felt by those who exercise vigorously. The discomfort is caused by the muscle spasm that occurs when the person is exercising. The spasm tightens the muscle around the chest, causing chest pains or discomfort. Muscle spasms of the coronary heart can also cause chest pains. However, there is a big difference between the two.

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