Unlike typical angina – which is often triggered by exertion or emotional stress - Prinzmetal’s angina almost always occurs when a person is at rest, usually between midnight and early morning. These attacks can be very painful.
Prinzmetal angina may also be referred to as:
- Variant angina
- Prinzmetal's variant angina
- Angina inversa
Causes of Variant (Prinzmetal) Angina: The pain from variant angina is caused by a spasm in the coronary arteries (which supply blood to the heart muscle).
The coronary arteries can spasm as a result of:
The pain or discomfort:
- Usually occurs while resting and during the night or early morning hours
- Are usually severe
- Can be relieved by taking medication
Medicines can help control the spasms. Drugs such as calcium antagonists and nitrates are the mainstays of treatment.
The spasms tend to come in cycles – appearing for a time, then going away. After six to 12 months of treatment, doctors may gradually reduce the medication.
Prinzmetal's angina is a chronic condition that will need to be followed by your healthcare provider even though the prognosis is generally good.
Track your angina symptoms with our Angina Log.
This content was last reviewed July 2015.