There are many known causes for a heart and chest pain, and it may be hard to distinguish one after another. Even so, there is a need to seek medical attention immediately once this occurs, especially for individuals suffering from coronary artery disease (CAD), since that may be a presenting symptom known as angina pectoris.
You may have already heard of the term, but what could it mean for you? Find out and understand the basics.
Chest pain or discomfort brought by coronary heart disease is known as angina pectoris, and this occurs once the heart does not get enough blood flow that it needs, which could be due to a narrowing or blockage of the heart’s arteries.
Patients may be able to identify an angina if there is an uncomfortable pressure to the chest, a feeling of squeezing or fullness, or pain in the chest’s center. This discomfort may also be present in the jaw, neck, shoulders, arms, or back. Currently, an estimate of 9.8 million Americans suffer from angina each year.
How angina is diagnosed (Heart and Chest pain)
There are several diagnostic examinations that are needed to confirm an angina. A chest radiography is a common diagnostic procedure, usually showing a normal looking heart in angina but a cardiomegaly, an enlarged heart, in patients with previous heart conditions such as myocardial infarction, ischemic cardiomyopathy, or acute pulmonary edema. A widely used procedure for the evaluation of angina patients is also a graded exercise stress testing, which can be performed alone or simultaneously with an echocardiography.
Patients may also undergo an electrocardiogram (ECG) assessment to analyze the heart’s electrical activity through electrodes attached to several points on the chest. An ECG is able to determine signs of a heart attack or an abnormal blood flow to the heart. An Important point to note is that, most patients with angina can show a normal ECG result. This is why an ECG monitoring may be done in conjunction with exercise or ambulatory efforts.
Differentiating the types of Angina
Generally, there are two types of angina: the stable and the unstable. You know when it’s a stable angina when it occurs once the heart exerts more effort. Situations such as during exercise or other rigorous activities, body puts up more efforts and this causes angina occurrence. In a stable angina, the pain is usually predicted, and lasts a short period of time. The pain may lasts as long as five minutes or as short as few seconds also. The pain also disappears at rest or once medication is taken.
Patients need to be wary of an unstable angina, though, as it is a medical emergency. In this case, chest pain can occur even at rest or during unexpected times. Moreover, the pain is more severe and longer lasting as compared to stable angina, lasting even more than 30 minutes. It does not disappear even when you rest or take angina medication. In such cases, patients are advised to seek immediate medical care right away, as this might signal a heart attack.
A typical stable angina might be relieved with rest or nitroglycerin. However, if you have been diagnosed with angina and having chest pain more frequently, the best thing to do is to see your doctor immediately as this may be early signs of unstable angina. As they say, prevention always beats cure.
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