Angina pectoris – usually referred to just as angina – describes a pain in the centre of the chest. It is a common symptom of coronary heart disease.
What are the causes of angina?
Angina is caused when the muscles of the heart do not receive enough oxygen for the work that they need to do.
This is due to the narrowing of the blood vessels over time, which can be accelerated by cigarette smoking, a high cholesterol level, being overweight and suffering from diabetes.
What are the symptoms of angina?
Pain in the centre of the chest, which may also travel into the neck, jaw, and arms (especially the left). Angina is usually described as a crushing or heavy pain.
It mostly follows exercise, but may also be triggered by emotion, digesting a heavy meal, or going out in a cold wind. Sometimes it is associated with breathlessness.
What treatment is available for angina?
Medication in the form of tablets or spray may be prescribed by your GP. These all work by dilating (widening) the blood vessels.
An attack of angina will usually last no longer than 10 minutes. If a particular activity brings on an attack, it may be wise to take the treatment before you start.
If you are suffering frequently, you may be prescribed regular medication or referred for tests.
Further treatment may be necessary, perhaps involving angioplasty (a process which enlarges the blood vessels where they are narrowed) or bypassing the existing blood vessels with alternative ones (coronary artery bypass grafts).