Coronary artery disease happens when arteries in the heart are blocked.

What is coronary artery disease?

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common form of heart disease. It occurs when arteries in the heart are blocked, leading to complications including:

  • Angina (chest pain) if the heart does not have enough oxygen.
  • Heart attack if the heart does not get any oxygen at all. During a heart attack, parts of the heart muscle can die from a lack of oxygen.

What are the symptoms of coronary artery disease?

Common symptoms of coronary artery disease include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Dizziness

Coronary artery disease symptoms can also be associated with angina, which is a squeezing, suffocating or burning feeling in the chest. It tends to start in the centre of your chest and may move to your arm, neck, back, throat or jaw.

What are the causes of coronary artery disease?

Coronary artery disease is caused by hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis. Fatty deposits called plaque build up inside the arteries. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood throughout your body.

Atherosclerosis can affect any arteries in the body. When plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, the heart may not get the blood it needs to work well. Over time, this can weaken or damage the heart. If a plaque tears, the body tries to fix the tear by forming a blood clot around it. The clot can block blood flow to the heart and cause a heart attack.

How is coronary artery disease diagnosed?

Your doctor will review your medical history and may order the following tests:

What treatment is available for coronary artery disease?

There is no cure for coronary artery disease. Your doctor may slow down its progress with surgery, medication and lifestyle changes.

Medications include:

Surgery options include:

Resources

The following resources have information about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment for coronary artery disease: