The following describes the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of angina. For specific information regarding your health and treatment options, please contact your Hurley physician or medical professional.
Angina can be a warning sign of a heart attack
In some people, angina can occur after exercising or when experiencing emotional distress. Others may typically feel angina pain when they are sleeping, resting or when cold. This latter type of angina is often a sign of coronary artery disease. On the other hand, unpredictable angina may be an early warning signal of a heart attack.
Angina symptoms should not be ignored. Seek treatment immediately, particularly if this is the first time you have experienced this type of discomfort. If you are already being treated for angina, you may need to use medications that have been prescribed to you by your cardiologist (such as nitroglycerin). If the angina pain is new or different, if the symptoms are worse than typical, if the pain lasts for more than five minutes, or if you think you may be having a heart attack, call 911 immediately so that EMS can bring you to the Hurley Emergency Department. If you are unsure about whether to come to the Emergency Department, it is better to be cautious and go to Emergency.
What causes angina?
When the flow of blood to the heart muscle is decreased or falls below normal, oxygen and other nutrients cannot reach the cells of the heart muscle. Lactic acid builds in the muscle cells and causes a feeling of pain in the chest. While most people experience angina as a result of narrowed or obstructed arteries, people with other cardiovascular conditions can also experience reduced blood flow to the heart and resulting angina pain.
How is angina diagnosed?
Since angina is a symptom of cardiovascular problems and not a disease in its own right, your Hurley cardiologist will focus on determining the underlying cause of your chest pain. Your physician will likely conduct a number of tests, including echocardiograms, electrocardiograms (EKG or ECG), exercise stress tests, and cardiac catheterization, among others.
How is angina treated?
Treatment for angina will depend upon the underlying condition that is causing your chest pain, as well as the specific symptoms you are experiencing. The goal of angina treatment is to increase blood flow to the heart, reduce pain, and to correct the underlying disorder.
For people with mild angina symptoms, treatment may involve lifestyle changes (such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising, and using relaxation and stress-reduction techniques, including meditation). For patients with more serious conditions, the most effective treatment may involve surgery and other interventional procedures, such as angioplasty and stenting, to open up blocked arteries.