Return to Index
Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
- Stable angina or angina pectoris—The attacks are predictable, and the triggers that cause them can be identified. They do not occur when you are resting or relaxed, and symptoms will usually disappear after a few minutes of rest.
- Unstable angina—The symptoms are less predictable. Chest pain may occur while resting or even sleeping (nocturnal angina), and the discomfort may last longer and be more intense. Stable angina becomes unstable when symptoms occur more frequently, last longer, or occur more easily. You should call your doctor immediately if you experience symptoms at rest, or a worsening pattern of symptoms.
- Variant or Prinzmetal angina—This is usually caused by the spasm of a coronary vessel. It occurs when you are at rest and often in the middle of the night. It can be quite severe and in some cases associated with arrhythmias.
- Microvascular angina—Caused by spasms in the smallest arterial vessels of the heart. Spasms cause a decrease in the heart's blood supply leading to chest pain.
|Angina: Most Common Areas of Pain|
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
- Heart attack—Blood flow to the heart is completely blocked in one or more of the coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle.
- Stroke—Blood flow to the brain is completely blocked in one or more arteries that supply the brain with oxygen.
- Heart arrhythmias—Irregular heartbeats feel like palpitations or flutters, and indicate problems with the heart's electrical circuit. They can also lead to sudden cardiac arrest.
- Heart failure—A progressive condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body. Symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath and swelling of ankles, feet, or abdomen.
|Heart Attack Symptoms|
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
Differences Between Angina and a Heart Attack
- Duration of pain—In general, anginal pain lasts for only a few minutes and is relieved by rest or nitroglycerin, a medication that increases blood flow to the heart. Heart attack pain may last longer, or may subside and return. There may also be a change in the general pattern of the stable angina you are used to.
- External factors—Anginal pain is often brought on by exercise or activity, emotional tension, dreams, cold or windy weather, low blood sugar, or even eating. Your symptoms can subside when you alter the behavior or environmental trigger. Heart attack pain will usually not subside with rest and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea, or sweating. Women, the elderly, or people with diabetes may have less typical or more subtle symptoms signaling angina or heart attack. Some people may have silent ischemia and experience no symptoms at all.
- Erectile dysfunction (ED)—ED is often caused by a blood flow problem in blood vessels of the penis. It may be an early sign of blood vessel problems that can exist throughout the body. ED has been found to precede CAD by an average of 2-3 years.
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD)—Narrowing and obstruction of arteries outside of the heart and brain.
- Chronic kidney disease—may often be caused by blood vessel damage.
Coronary artery disease (CAD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 16, 2013. Accessed January 27, 2014.
Nascimento ER1, Maia AC, et al. Sexual dysfunction and cardiovascular diseases: a systematic review of prevalence. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2013;68(11):1462-1468.
Warning signs of a heart attack. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/WarningSignsofaHeartAttack/Warning-Signs-of-a-Heart-Attack%5FUCM%5F002039%5FArticle.jsp. Updated January 15, 2014. Accessed January 27, 2014.
What are the signs and symptoms of coronary heart disease? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/cad/signs.html. Updated August 23, 2013. Accessed January 27, 2014.
- Reviewer: Michael J. Fucci, DO
- Review Date: 09/2013
- Update Date: 00/12/2014