What is an angina pectoris attack? | Angina pectoris

What is an angina pectoris attack?

Angina pectoris describes pain and a feeling of tightness or pressure in the chest. These symptoms are usually not permanent. Rather, they occur in certain situations in attacks.

Possible triggers are, for example, physical activity and psychological stress, as both situations increase the body’s oxygen demand. Such an angina pectoris attack usually occurs suddenly and usually lasts one to five minutes. During the seizure, affected persons suffer from sometimes very severe stabbing or pressing pain in the chest area.

Back, jaw or stomach pain can also occur. In addition, the tightness in the chest usually makes breathing difficult, which can cause fear and panic. After a few minutes the symptoms disappear.

In the acute situation of an angina pectoris attack, the administration of nitroglycerine can relieve the symptoms. It is usually administered in the form of a nitro spray. However, before this medication is prescribed, a precise diagnosis of the heart disease must be made. Due to the sudden onset of symptoms, an angina pectoris attack can also be confused with a heart attack. For this reason, a cardiologist (heart specialist) should be consulted if pectanginous complaints occur.

How likely is angina pectoris to lead to a heart attack?

The connection between angina pectoris and myocardial infarction is clear: both diseases are based on coronary heart disease. While an angina pectoris attack is caused by a short-term lack of blood supply to the heart muscles due to a narrowing of the coronary vessels, a heart attack is caused by the sudden complete closure of such a vessel. The transition between the two diseases is fluid.

The higher the degree of stenosis (a distinction is made between 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% stenosis), the stronger the angina pectoris symptoms and the more likely it is that a heart attack will occur. The situations in which angina occurs are also determined by the severity of the disease. Whereas in stage I only severe physical exertion leads to a seizure, the symptoms in stage IV occur at rest.

The risk of a heart attack in a stage IV patient is many times higher than the risk in stage I. A further risk assessment is made by classifying the patient into stable and unstable angina pectoris. With stable angina, the risk of heart attack is low because the disease does not progress. In unstable angina pectoris, on the other hand, the risk is significantly higher because coronary heart disease is becoming increasingly severe.

Is angina pectoris contagious?

Angina pectoris is not a contagious disease. The disease develops exclusively in the vessels of the affected persons. There are many different causes, but they are exclusively in the body of the person affected.

Only through many metabolic processes does a coronary heart disease develop, which triggers angina pectoris. In contrast to infectious diseases, there is no pathogen that can be transmitted from one person to another. However, angina pectoris can be quasi inherited. Although not every descendant of affected persons gets angina pectoris, the risk of developing heart disease is significantly increased. The reason for this is a genetic predisposition that favours the development of coronary heart disease.