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Angina Symptoms & Diagnosis

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Angina Guide

Christine Jeffries

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Symptoms

  • Pressure or squeezing chest pain
    • Some people do not experience the pain as severe
    • Elderly people, women, and people with diabetes more likely to have atypical or subtle symptoms
    • Some people have silent ischemia and experience no symptoms of chest pain
    • Chest pain of any kind deserves a medical evaluation to determine its cause
    • Chest pain or discomfort is the hallmark symptom of angina

The likelihood of a heart attack is increased when chest discomfort is severe, lasts more than 15 minutes, and is accompanied by other symptoms such as:

  • Pain in the shoulder(s) or arm(s), or into the jaw
  • Weakness
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath

Diagnosis

Tests will be done right away to see if you are having an episode of angina or a heart attack. If you have a stable pattern of angina, other tests may be done to determine the extent of your disease. The test results will help to create a treatment plan.

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Tests may include:

  • Blood tests—to look for certain blood markers to determine if you are having a heart attack
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG) —a record of the heart's electrical activity, to look for evidence of past heart attacks, acute heart attacks, or heart rhythm problems
  • Echocardiogram —high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to examine the structure and function of the heart
  • Exercise stress test —records the heart's electrical activity during increased demand
    • A medication is used to simulate the effects of physical exertion for those that can not exercise
  • Nuclear scanning—radioactive material is injected into a vein to highlight areas with low blood flow
  • Electron-beam CT scan (coronary calcium scan, heart scan, CT angiography )—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make detailed pictures of the heart, coronary arteries, and surrounding structures
    • Type of CT scan measures the amount of calcium deposits in the coronary arteries to determine the risk of heart disease or heart attacks
    • American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines state that heart scans are not for everyone and are most likely to benefit patients at intermediate risk of CAD
  • Coronary angiography —dye is injected into the arteries to highlight abnormalities (narrowing or blockage) in the arteries

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2014 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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