Not all chest pain indicates a serious medical problem. For example, you might experience chest pain due to indigestion or a strained muscle. But, if your chest pain is related to your heart, it could indicate a serious condition.
At Prima Medicine, in Fairfax and South Riding, Virginia, our care team helps patients treat and manage symptoms of angina, a heart-related condition that often causes chest pain. This serious condition often hides an underlying disease, which can make you sick and even lead to a heart attack.
Read on to learn how seeking proper medical care for angina can help prevent a heart attack.
What is angina?
Angina is a symptom of heart disease rather than a disease itself. When your heart doesn’t get enough blood to all of its parts, you can experience significant chest pain. This chest pain is angina, sometimes referred to as ischemic chest pain or angina pectoris.
Angina results when you have a blockage in one of your arteries or if not enough blood flows to your heart.
There are different types of angina. The most common is stable angina, which is triggered when your heart rate increases as with stress or physical activity. Unstable angina results when you’re resting or inactive. Another type, called microvascular angina, develops when the small arteries to the heart are damaged.
What are the symptoms of angina?
The most common symptom of angina is chest pain, but different types of angina can result in different kinds of chest pain. Stable angina typically results in short, intense pain that goes away in minutes. Unstable angina, on the other hand, typically brings strong pain that lasts for more than 20 minutes. And pain associated with microvascular angina tends to last for more than 10 minutes.
Regardless of the type of angina, the resulting pain can affect people differently. Your pain might radiate to other parts of your body, including your back, shoulders, arms, throat, neck, or jaw. Other symptoms accompanying chest pain may include:
- Fullness in the chest
- Heaviness or pressure
- Burning sensations
- Shortness of breath
- Squeezing or crushing sensation
- Vomiting or upset stomach
It’s important to note that men and women often describe the pain associated with angina differently. Men typically exhibit symptoms more classically associated with heart pain — pain in the chest, arms, or shoulders. Women, on the other hand, more frequently express a pressing or crushing sensation and pain in their stomach, throat, neck, or back.
Why is medical care for angina important?
Angina is a symptom of an underlying issue with your heart. By seeking proper medical treatment, you can take steps to remedy or manage the underlying cause of your discomfort and keep your heart healthier, longer.
When plaque builds up in your arteries, it can block the flow of blood to your heart. This means that there is less oxygen available for the same amount of work, which can create pain and discomfort. This pain is an important sign of heart disease that you shouldn’t ignore.
In addition to evaluating your health, risk factors, and family history, your doctor can order tests and imaging to get to the bottom of your chest pain and reduce your risk of suffering a heart attack.
What help is there for angina?
Because angina is caused by a lack of blood flow, the overall goal of treatment is to increase blood flow to the heart to prevent further complications, such as a heart attack. Depending on the type and severity of your angina, your care provider at Prima Medicine may recommend different treatment options.
If you smoke, quitting is an important first step. Other treatments might include changes to your lifestyle, such as eating a heart-healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, stress management, and approved physical activity.
Your doctor may also prescribe medications that can work to improve blood flow to your heart. If your angina is serious, your provider may also recommend a procedure, such as angioplasty, stent insertion, or bypass surgery, to better manage your heart’s health.
If you’ve been diagnosed with angina or are experiencing symptoms of this uncomfortable condition, the compassionate care team at Prima Medicine can help. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone today.