Heart Disease Home > Variant Angina

Variant angina is an extremely rare form of angina pectoris that is caused by a spasm in a coronary artery. While other types of angina generally occur in people with coronary artery disease, variant angina may occur in those with or without the condition. The primary symptom is severe pain in or around the chest, shoulders, jaw, neck, back, or arms.

What Is Variant Angina?

Angina pectoris, or angina for short, is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when the heart muscle is not getting enough oxygen-rich blood for a short period of time.
There are three types:
The most common types are stable angina and unstable angina. Variant angina is rare.

Understanding the Heart and Coronary Arteries

In order to understand angina, it is often helpful to understand the heart and the coronary arteries. Like any muscle, the heart needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients, which are carried to it by the blood in the coronary arteries. Similar to other muscles, the harder the heart is working, the more oxygen and nutrients it needs.
However, the coronary arteries can become narrowed or clogged, which can decrease the amount of blood that goes to the heart muscle. When the coronary arteries cannot supply enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart, angina symptoms can occur.

Causes of Variant Angina

Variant angina is caused by a spasm in a coronary artery. This spasm causes the walls of the artery to tighten. This narrows the artery, causing the blood flow to the heart to slow or stop.
Unlike other types of angina that usually occur in someone with coronary artery disease (also called CAD or just heart disease), variant angina may occur in people with or without this condition.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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