Coronary Artery Spasm
Alternate Names : Vasospastic Angina, Variant Angina, Prinzmetal's Angina
The coronary arteries are a pair of blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscles. A spasm in these arteries known as a vasospasm reduces blood flow to the heart. This causes a chest pain called angina.
What is going on in the body?
Most often, vasospastic angina occurs while a person is at rest or it wakes a person from sleep. Typical angina is linked with physical activity and caused by fat deposits clogging the arteries, or atherosclerosis. Vasospastic angina differs in that it can happen whether a person:
is active or resting
does or does not have clogged arteries from atherosclerosis
When the spasms occur, blood flow to the heart lessens. This causes the pain and raises the risk of a heart attack.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
The coronary arteries and other blood vessels may constrict due to:
certain medications, such as vasopressin or ergonovine
exposure to cold
high levels of stress
Sometimes, strenuous activity can bring on an attack.