What causes angina?


Quick Answer

Angina is a painful tightness or pressure in the chest caused by an insufficient amount of blood flowing through the heart, WebMD states. The arteries become obstructed by a buildup of harmful fatty deposits, or plaque, preventing blood from circulating oxygen to the heart muscle.

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Full Answer

Angina is typically a symptom of coronary artery disease or another heart complication. The least severe form, stable angina, usually occurs during physical activity when the heart muscle is forced to work harder while relying on a reduced oxygen supply, according to Mayo Clinic. Other environmental factors, such as smoking, poor diet and stress, can also constrict the arteries and trigger an angina episode.

Unstable angina is a more severe form caused by arterial blood clots or plaque ruptures, Mayo Clinic states. It can occur rapidly at any time and produce intense pain when a sudden blockage cuts off oxygen flow to the heart. Since unstable angina can become exacerbated quickly, the condition may require emergency treatment to prevent cardiac failure. Individuals can also suffer from an arterial spasm and develop a rare form known as variant, or Prinzmetal's, angina.

People with angina often develop pain in their limbs and upper body or experience feelings of dizziness, sweating, burning pain and shortness of breath, WebMD notes. They may confuse angina pain with heartburn and forego medical attention, giving the condition more time to escalate.

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