Stabbing, pricking or other sharp and well-localised and transient chest pains are usually not related to angina. These could be due to indigestion or a muscle spasm.
Dr Peeyush Jain, Head, Department of Preventive Cardiology, Fortis-Escorts Heart Institute, New Delhi, tells you the difference. Chest discomfort/chest pain, also known as angina, is a major symptom of heart disease. Angina occurs when the heart muscle does not get enough oxygen due to critical narrowing of coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart. This makes your heart cry out for more blood. And this cry is symptomised as chest pain. However, all chest pain is not angina.
HOW TO TELL?
A different sensation: Classic angina is manifested with progressive tightness mid-chest, commonly described as a band around the chest or weight in the centre of the chest. Less commonly, there is pressure or squeezing. Some may also complain of suffocation, choking or breathlessness. The discomfort is diffused and deep-seated, best described as clenching a fist over the breastbone.
Stabbing, pricking or other sharp and well-localised and transient chest pains are rarely due to angina. These could be due to indigestion or a muscle spasm. Anxiety may cause a dull aching, persistent pain around the left nipple, alternating with attacks of sharp, lancinating stabs lasting a few seconds. But it doesn’t bear any relation to heart disease.
It has triggers: Typically, angina has a regular pattern, and is brought upon by physical activity. This is stable angina. It is precipitated by physical exertion, developing gradually and increasing progressively as the activity is continued. Angina may also be aggravated by emotional stress and excitement. This is because suddenly your heart muscle requires more blood flow than can be supplied through the obstructed artery. Angina may appear more easily in the morning soon after waking up for the same reason. Rest relieves angina within a few minutes. It is rare for stable angina to persist beyond 30 minutes.
The trigger is an important way to decode angina. Why? Because occasionally, discomfort or pain may be localised to sites of radiation such as the inner left arm, shoulders, lower jaw, teeth, neck or upper back without chest pain. Also, there may be other angina equivalents such as breathlessness, nausea, belching, heartburn, sweating and dizziness on physical exertion. More common in seniors and diabetics, the relation of physical activity helps to detect angina in them. Apart from activity, heavy meals and exposure to cold weather and cigarette smoke also seem to precipitate angina.
Do keep in mind that as the coronary artery blockage advances, chest pains may occur more easily, more frequently and may last longer than before. Pains may persist despite rest or may even occur during rest or sleep. This is called unstable angina.
Nitroglycerine helps: Stable angina generally subsides within 10 minutes of keeping a nitroglycerine tablet under the tongue. Chest pain that is relieved after more than 10 minutes is either not angina or unstable angina. Unstable angina requires hospitalisation and measures to minimise the risk of heart attack. Sometimes, chest pain due to inflammation or spasm of the food pipe may be relieved by nitroglycerine; but this kind of pain has a burning sensation and may be aggravated by meals and lying down and relieved with milk, antacids or even light physical activity.
IS IT ANGINA OR A HEART ATTACK?
Heart attack occurs when there is complete cessation of blood flow across a coronary artery, making the heart scream with pain. Typically, the character of chest pain during a heart attack is quite similar to angina. But here’s how to tell the difference between the two and take action immediately.
– Severe chest pain or discomfort that is becoming worse or lasts longer than 20 minutes.
– Pain or discomfort accompanied by profound weakness, nausea, profuse sweating, giddiness or fainting.
– Pain or discomfort that does not go away even after several (>3) nitroglycerine tablets. #KhabarLive