Intestinal angina is a wake-up call
Dr. Anthony Komaroff explains how the digestive system can malfunction when plaque causes severe narrowing in one or more of the gut's major arteries. This condition is known as intestinal angina.
DEAR DOCTOR K: For years I've endured stomach pain after every meal. My doctor finally diagnosed me with intestinal angina. I've never even heard of this.
DEAR READER: You've probably heard of cardiac angina. That's when cholesterol-filled plaque in the heart's arteries limits blood flow to a part of your heart muscle.
Typically, cardiac angina occurs when a person starts to exert himself, not at rest. Halfway up several flights of stairs, a squeezing pain may start in the middle of your chest. It goes away when you stop climbing the stairs. The cardiac angina occurs with exertion because the heart is working harder and isn't getting the blood supply it needs.
It's the same thing with intestinal angina. When you eat, your stomach and intestines stop resting and start to work. The wall of your intestines contains muscle that squeezes the food you've eaten and keeps it moving. If you have cholesterol-filled plaque in the arteries that supply blood to your intestine, the intestinal muscle — like the heart muscle — will start to “complain” that it isn't getting enough blood to work harder.
Your digestive system normally gets about one-quarter of the blood pumped out by your heart. After you eat, blood flow to the stomach and intestines almost doubles. In a healthy person, the digestive system handles this without missing a beat.
It's a different story when plaque causes severe narrowing in one or more of the major arteries supplying your gut. The mismatch in blood supply and demand can cause sharp abdominal pain after meals. It can also lead to diarrhea, nausea or vomiting after meals. These symptoms are the gut's version of angina. Thus the name: intestinal angina.
Life Photo Galleriesview all
- 10801Oklahoma tornadoes: Cost, custom keep basements scarce
- 10490Oklahoma tornadoes: The 'Big Dog,' the little boy and the hug that triumphs over tragedy
- 10422Oklahoma tornadoes: Plaza Towers Elementary School teacher shoved students into bathroom as wall collapsed
- 9824Finding Addyson – One family's struggle in the Moore tornado
- 6498Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill to join Blake Shelton at "Healing in the Heartland" Oklahoma tornado benefit
- 4191Downtown wish list includes Super Target
- 4093Oklahoma tornadoes: 27 remain hospitalized from tornadoes