An antianginal is a medication which is used to treat angina, a form of chest pain which develops when the supply of blood to the heart becomes restricted. There are a number of drugs which fit into the antianginal drug class, and they can be used in a variety of different ways. These drugs are usually prescribed by a cardiologist, and must be taken under medical supervision which includes follow up appointments to monitor heart health and function. Failure to take the drugs properly can result in adverse effects.
In an episode of angina, the patient experiences chest pain because the heart is not getting enough blood, and it goes into distress as a result of not receiving the supply of oxygen it needs. Angina can take a number of different forms, and is often linked with cardiovascular disease such as coronary artery disease. The purpose of an antianginal is to either increase the supply of blood to the heart, or to decrease the heart's demand for oxygen.
One class of drugs which can be used as antianginals are vasodilators, such a nitrates. These drugs expand the blood vessels around the heart to allow blood to get through even if the vessels are occluded or narrowed. Antithrombotic drugs can also be used to treat angina, by breaking up clots and inhibiting clot formation. If a patient has a clotting disease, it is also important to take such drugs to reduce the risk that a clot will travel to the brain and cause a stroke. Drugs which inhibit heart function to reduce oxygen demands are also used in the management of angina. These antianginal drugs can include calcium channel blockers and beta blockers.
When a doctor recommends an antianginal, it is important to understand the indications for use. Some drugs need to be taken at set intervals on a regular schedule to provide continuous protection. Others need to be taken as needed. Patients should familiarize themselves with the recommended dosages, the daily limits on dosages, and the warning signs which indicate that it is time to take a trip to the hospital rather than attempting to manage the angina at home.
Patients should also make sure that their pharmacists are familiar with all of the drugs they take. Some medications may be contraindicated for a patient who is taking antianginal drugs, and a pharmacist can catch conflicting drug prescriptions which could lead to complications.