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Angina Pectoris

Definition and Overview:

Angina pectoris is pain in the chest due to a lack of oxygen reaching the heart. This lack of oxygen can be quite painful, and if sustained long enough will lead to permanent potentially fatal heart damage. Many people suffer angina pectoris or chest pain for a variety of different reasons. Given the circumstances and the person involved it is important to evaluate and treat the person effectively, especially because diseases such as heart disease are major causes of morbidity and mortality in the world. 

Causes and Symptoms:

Angina pectoris is most commonly caused by coronary artery disease. The characteristic feature of this disease is hardening of the arteries that supplies blood to the heart. This can be caused by things like smoking, obesity, heart disease, or genetic predisposition. The symptoms of angina include a feeling of discomfort of the chest. This discomfort can be described as heaviness, squeezing, burning, or pressure on the chest. The discomfort can also be experienced in the stomach, back, arms, and shoulders with the pain tending to radiate down the shoulders, arms, and neck. The pain can also be seen with breathlessness, sweating, and nausea. It tends to be made worse by having a full stomach or by exertion. Rest will make it better. 


Angina is diagnosed by using a regular echocardiogram (ECG) or an exercise ECG test. An exercise test is when a patient exercises on a treadmill for several minutes followed by measurement of changes in the beats of the heart. The patient can also have a more invasive test called an angiogram where dye is injected into the vessels and an X-ray is taken of the dye flow through the heart. 

Treatment and Prognosis:

Treatment of the disease consists of decreasing frequency and severity of symptoms, and preventing a heart attack. This can be done in several ways and depends in part on the severity of the angina. Low dose aspirin has been shown to be beneficial. Drugs such as beta-blockers, nitroglycerin, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, and statins all have positive effects with respect to the disease. The specific prescription of the drugs would depend on the individual’s needs. Lifestyle changes are also extremely important, such as an increase in exercise and changes in diet to lower blood sugar and cholesterol. As a last resort surgery is an option to open or replace blocked arteries that feed the heart. Outlook is good for patients with minimal heart damage and effective handling of the disease.