Angina - Topic Overview
Angina caused by coronary artery spasms
Less common types of angina are caused by coronary artery spasms. This angina happens when a coronary artery suddenly contracts (spasms), reducing
oxygen-rich blood flow to the heart. If severe, a spasm can block blood flow
and cause a heart attack. Most people who have these spasms have coronary artery disease, though they don't always have plaque in their arteries. Cocaine can cause coronary
artery spasm and heart attack, but in most cases it is not known what triggers
Variant angina, also called Prinzmetal's
angina or vasospastic angina, is also caused by coronary artery spasm. But
it has a distinctive pattern. It usually occurs when you are at rest, and
there is no clear cause. It occurs more often at night, in the early morning
hours, or at the same time of the day. The spasm often occurs where plaque has narrowed the
coronary artery, but it can also occur in healthy
coronary arteries. Variant angina episodes typically last 2 to 5 minutes and
quickly subside with nitroglycerin.
How do you manage stable angina?
Most people who have stable angina can
control their symptoms by taking medicines as prescribed and nitroglycerin
For tips on managing angina see:
- Quick Tips: Taking Charge of Your Angina.
- Using Nitroglycerin for Angina.
What makes symptoms worse?
Other health problems, such as fever or infection, anemia, or other heart problems, can make your angina symptoms worse. They may also cause unstable angina.
Angina may get worse when another condition:
- Forces your heart to work harder, which
increases the amount of oxygen it needs.
- Decreases the amount of
oxygen the heart receives.
In either case, there is an imbalance between the amount of oxygen
that your heart needs and the amount that it receives through the blood supply
from your coronary arteries. If your heart can't get enough oxygen, your
symptoms of stable angina may get worse.