Angina also known as angina pectoris is a medical condition characterized by chest pain usually left sided due to inadequate blood supply (ischemia) to the heart muscles due to obstruction (like presence of blood clot), narrowing or contraction (vasospasm) of the supplying coronary arteries. Among all the three causes mentioned the most common cause is narrowing of the coronary arteries due to accumulation of fatty substance along the inner wall of the coronary arteries (atherosclerosis).
Other than left sided chest pain the most common presenting symptoms include increased anxiety, perspiration, feeling of impending doom even blackout. The severity of chest pain does not always indicate the extent and severity of underlying ischemia; as sometimes there is minimal pain in patients with severe degree of coronary arterial block. Angina pectoris may proceed to myocardial infarction (commonly known as heart attack) when blood supply to the heart cells (myocardial cells) is compromised for a prolonged period of time leading to death of the cells. This condition is characterized by severe excruciating pain which in contrast to angina pectoris does not subside despite taking rest or anti anginal drugs.
Angina pectoris can be of different types depending on the underlying cause, pattern of disease progression etc. These different types are stable angina, unstable angina and variant angina (Prinzmetal’s angina); of these three types unstable angina is the most serious type as it may progress to heart attack readily.
Treatment options include changing life style, drugs like nitrates, calcium channel blockers, anticoagulants, antiplatelet drugs, low dose aspirin etc, angioplasty and stent implantation and coronary bypass surgery to bypass the blocked segment of the coronary artery.It is estimated that in about 60% of the patients suffering from severe degree angina death occurs before 55 years of age.