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Angina is the term used to describe chest pains caused from too little blood reaching the heart. Read this lesson to learn why this happens, what the other symptoms are, and how it is treated once diagnosed.

What Is Angina?

Angina is the term used for the chest pains associated with too little blood reaching the heart. Angina is a symptom of coronary heart disease. It may also be called angina pectoris. There are three categories of angina: stable, unstable, and variant. Stable angina is usually triggered by physical exercise.

Unstable angina results from a blood clot forming and blocking a blood vessel. Variant angina occurs when there is a temporary spasm that causes the blood vessel to narrow.

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Causes of Angina

Chest pains associated with angina occur due to not enough blood reaching the heart. One function of blood is to carry oxygen throughout the body, and if the heart isn’t getting enough blood, it isn’t getting adequate oxygen to function properly. When the heart doesn’t get enough oxygen, the condition is called ischemia. So, what prevents blood from reaching the heart?One cause is coronary heart disease. Plaques build up in the arteries and veins and, as a result, the vessels narrow, slowly closing and limiting the amount of blood that can pass through.

Sometimes these narrowed vessels don’t cause any problems, such as when you are resting. However, once you begin to move around and increase the blood flow, then there is too much blood trying to push through the bottleneck of the narrowed vessel. This, in turn, causes chest pains.

Symptoms of Angina

The following symptoms are commonly experienced with angina:

  • Chest pain
  • Feelings of pressure in or on the chest
  • Additional pain in the upper body and jaw
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing

Sometimes the symptoms are similar to indigestion, complicating proper diagnosis. Symptoms may vary in duration, timing, and intensity.

A diagram displaying where the majority of angina symptoms are felt.
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