Experiencing chest pain or discomfort can be very alarming because we all know what’s in the chest — the heart. In this article, we will talk about the 4 different types of heart-related chest pain.
Angina pectoris — this is the medical term for chest pain or discomfort. Sometimes it is simply referred to as angina. In a nutshell, it happens when the heart muscles fail to get enough oxygen.
The reason for this is the arteries supplying oxygenated blood to the heart muscles are clogged. Yes, the very organ that pumps blood needs to be supplied by blood.
When you are performing a physical activity or also experiencing intense emotions or stress, the heart muscles demand more oxygen because it’s working harder to supply your entire body with blood.
And since the arteries that provide the heart muscles with blood are clogged, the heart muscles may fail to get all of the oxygen it needs. This is something that registers as chest pain or discomfort.
It’s important to note that angina is not the same as heart attack. Angina is a decrease in the supply of oxygen to the heart muscles, while a heart attack is the failure of the heart muscles to obtain oxygen.
So in other words, just because you are experiencing angina doesn’t necessarily mean that you are having a heart attack. However, doctors say that angina may lead to a heart attack.
Angina comes in 4 different types. Let’s take a look at each one of them:
Doctors say that stable angina is chest pain or discomfort that usually occurs with physical activity or emotional stress, but it is something that is relieved as soon as you take a rest or when the stress subsides.
Commonly, someone who experiences stable angina is prescribed with nitroglycerin, a vasodilator drug that causes the arteries supplying the heart muscles with oxygen to widen.
One very important thing to take note is that stable angina won’t happen unless you are carrying out a physical activity or experiencing intense emotions, such as anger and even excitement.
In contrast, unstable angina can strike even if the person is not doing any physical activity or having intense emotions. So in other words, it’s something that you may experience even while you are at rest.
According to doctors, unstable angina doesn’t follow a pattern, which means that it can be difficult to predict when it is likely to strike, unlike stable angina.
They add that unstable angina can occur more frequently than stable angina, and can be more severe. And also, unstable angina cannot be relieved by rest or nitroglycerin. In other words, it usually requires emergency care.
Also sometimes referred to as Prinzmetal angina or Prinzmetal’s angina, variant angina is a relatively rare form of chest pain or discomfort. Experts say that it accounts to only about 2 percent of all angina cases.
In a nutshell, variant angina is caused by the spasming of the arteries that bring oxygen to the heart muscles — when they spasm, they temporarily become narrower.
This type of angina is more common in younger women, and it usually strikes between midnight and 8 in the morning. Like unstable angina, there is no pattern, which means that it can be quite unpredictable.
There are also very small arteries that supply the heart muscles with oxygen. When they spasm, the heart muscles may fail to get the oxygen it needs most especially when they are working really hard.
Basically, that’s what happens when microvascular angina strikes. Doctors sometimes refer to it as cardiac syndrome X or simply syndrome X.
Doctors are undecided if microvascular angina is the very same thing as microvascular disease that is associated with a bunch of medical conditions, such as diabetes.