Angina Pectoris

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Angina Pectoris Overview

Angina, or angina pectoris, is the medical term used to describe the temporary chest discomfort that occurs when the heart is not getting enough blood.
  • The heart is a muscle (myocardium) and gets its blood supply from the coronary arteries.

  • Blood carries the oxygen and nutrients the heart muscle needs to keep pumping.

  • When the heart does not get enough blood, it can no longer function at its full capacity.

  • When physical exertion, strong emotions, extreme temperatures, or eating increase the demand on the heart, a person with angina feels temporary pain, pressure, fullness, or squeezing in the center of the chest or in the neck, shoulder, jaw, upper arm, or upper back. This is angina, especially if the discomfort is relieved by removing the stressor and/or taking sublingual (under the tongue) nitroglycerin.

  • The discomfort of angina is temporary, meaning a few seconds or minutes, not lasting hours or all day.

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Angina Pectoris

What is angina pectoris?

angina

Angina pectoris is the medical term for chest pain or discomfort due to coronary heart disease. Angina is a symptom of a condition called myocardial ischemia. It occurs when the heart muscle (myocardium) doesn't get as much blood (hence as much oxygen) as it needs. This usually happens because one or more of the heart's arteries (coronary blood vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle) is narrowed or blocked. Insufficient blood supply is called ischemia.

Angina also can occur in people with valvular heart disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (this is an enlarged heart due to disease) or uncontrolled high blood pressure. These cases are rare, though.

Typical angina is uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest. The discomfort also may be felt in the neck, jaw, shoulder, back or arm. Many types of chest discomfort aren't related to angina. Acid reflux (heartburn) and lung infection or inflammation are examples.

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