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Acute angina is a condition that occurs when there is suddenly not enough blood flowing to the heart. Symptoms usually include sudden chest pain, nausea, dizziness, and heart palpitations, and they tend to disappear while at rest. For this reason, it is different from a heart attack, although this condition is a common symptom of coronary artery disease, which means it needs immediate medical attention. In many cases, this issue is caused by coronary arteries that have become too narrow to allow for sufficient blood to flow to the heart.
Most cases appear as a result of activity, including during or just after exercise, a heavy meal, or even stress. All of these activities can require more blood oxygen flowing to the heart than usual, resulting in the narrowed coronary arteries not being able to keep up with the demand. In most cases, the symptoms disappear within minutes, as soon as the patient either rests or puts a nitroglycerin tablet in the mouth, as both actions can decrease blood pressure. This is what separates the symptoms of acute angina from those of a heart attack, as the signs of the latter condition do not usually disappear with rest.
There are two types of this condition, with the most common one being stable angina. Patients with stable angina usually have an idea of when their symptoms will occur, as they often show up when they are active, and disappear with rest or nitroglycerin. On the other hand, unstable angina is more severe, with symptoms that may show up at any time, and do not usually go away with rest or nitroglycerin. In fact, this condition usually precedes a heart attack, so it requires immediate medical attention. Fortunately, this type is much rarer than stable angina.
The most common symptom of acute angina is usually chest discomfort, which is usually described as pressure, heaviness, or even a sharp stabbing pain. This sign may be accompanied by heart palpitations, with the feeling that the heart is going to pound out of the chest. Indigestion, nausea, and even vomiting may occur at the same time, causing the patient to be severely uncomfortable. Another symptom of acute angina is often dizziness or shortness of breath, which is due to the reduced flow of oxygen to the brain. Not surprisingly, anxiety, sweating, and fatigue also often occur during the sudden onset of acute angina, especially if the patient is not aware of what is happening.