The principle cause for Angina is a reduction of blood flow to the heart muscle. The blood is responsible for carrying oxygen to the heart, which it requires in order to survive. When the heart muscle does not receive enough vital oxygen, ischemia is caused and Angina results. The most common cause for a reduction in blood flow to the heart is Coronary Artery Disease or CAD. This occurs when fatty deposits known as plaque causes a narrowing of the arteries, resulting in Atherosclerosis. There are two forms of Angina: stable Angina and unstable Angina. The type one has can dictate how often Angina symptoms are experienced.
There are essentially two complications associated with Angina. The first is that the pain Angina causes can make day to day activities quite painful and difficult to do. The second is that Angina can lead to heart attack, which is a serious and life threatening complication. Because untreated heart attack is deadly, leaving Angina untreated is very risky. Seek medical help in order to avoid this completely preventable complication.
The chest pain or discomfort that Angina causes can be felt as squeezing, pressure, pain or fullness around the center of the chest. In addition to discomfort and pain, Angina symptoms may also include pain in the jaw, neck, arms or shoulders, fatigue, nausea, anxiety, shortness of breath, dizziness and sweating. Many of these symptoms are similar to how a heart attack feels, which is why many people with Angina believe that they are suffering from a heart attack. Even when you know you are not having a heart attack, you should still seek medical assistance for any serious chest pain.
To reach an Angina diagnosis, a physician will begin with a physical examination and then move to other more specialized testing. Some of the most common tests used to diagnose Angina and to rule out cardiac arrest include: electrocardiogram or ECG, stress test, chest X-ray, echocardiogram, nuclear stress test, blood tests, coronary angiography and cardiac computerized tomography or CT scan. The physician may not utilize all of these tests, but will apply as many as necessary to reach an accurate diagnosis.
Treating Angina can take on many forms including angioplasty, medications, stenting, coronary bypass surgery and lifestyle changes. The goal for all treatments is to reduce both the severity and frequency of the symptoms while lowering the risk of life-threatening side effects like heart attack. For mild Angina, only lifestyle changes may be necessary, whereas more severe Angina will require medication use along with the potential for surgical treatment.