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Abdominal angina sounds very similar to the condition angina pectoris, which affects the heart, causing great pain when blood vessels don’t supply enough blood to the heart. The conditions are not the same, though in both cases pain tends to be caused by inadequate blood supply. With abdominal angina, pain occurs in the abdomen and results from insufficient blood supply to its parts.
This tends to be a relatively rare condition and statistics are lacking on its percentage of occurrence in the general population. Like angina pectoris, abdominal angina is often caused when people have atherosclerosis, or narrowed blood vessels due to plaque buildup. The narrowing is most evident in those blood vessels supplying the abdomen, and thus symptoms of the condition occur there. The disease is known to have highest incidence among people who are cigarette smokers, suggesting those who smoke have the greatest risk factor for developing this condition.
The symptoms of abdominal angina tend to be very obvious. Pain episodes usually occur within an hour after people have eaten, often within 10-20 minutes of consuming a meal. People will then feel uncomfortable cramping in the abdomen, usually in the middle region or above. This pain can take many hours to resolve as the digestive system strains to digest food with reduced blood capacity.
What occurs as a result of this symptom is that people start eating less, because the pain associated with eating negatively reinforces it. Those people with abdominal angina who have not seen a doctor to get a diagnosis for some time often have lost quite a bit of weight because they keep eating less in hopes of avoiding the pain. In any case, the abdomen will still strain in the absence of proper blood supply.
Diagnosis of abdominal angina takes place when a person presents with these symptoms. Doctors will look for narrowed blood vessels or blood vessel occlusions that are creating the problem, and often opt to perform catheterization/angioplasty to open the closed or closing vessels. Sometimes open surgeries are required instead, but this is less common.
Initial treatment to address faulty blood vessels might only be the beginning. Making certain a person has healthy eating patterns thereafter, especially to regain weight, is important. These patterns must be healthy because presence of atherosclerosis suggests high cholesterol levels and cholesterol build-up in the past. In fact, people with abdominal angina are usually thoroughly examined for the presence of cardiac disease elsewhere, and some may need careful following by a cardiologist. Medications could be required to sustain blood vessel and heart health, and smoking cessation would be highly encouraged.
Just for the record, the statement "people start eating less, because the pain associated with eating negatively reinforces it" is incorrect. Pain "punishes," it is not a negative reinforcer. Eating is a negative reinforcer for hunger. That is, eating reduces hunger, so it increases the future likelihood of eating when hunger is present.
When taking something away increases the frequency of a behavior in the future, it is called a "negative reinforcer." When it reduces the frequency of a behavior, it is called a "punisher."