What is coronary spasm?

Chest pain is a common symptom of coronary artery disease. However, people without fixed, severe coronary blockages also can have chest pain due coronary spasm.

Spasm

During coronary spasm, the coronary arteries constrict or spasm on and off, causing temporary lack of blood supply to the heart muscle (ischemia).

Coronary artery disease causes narrowing in one or more of the coronary arteries. You can have coronary spasm even without significant disease. However, most patients with coronary spasm have at least mild coronary artery disease.

Risk factors for coronary spasm

Most patients with coronary spasm are between ages 40 and 60. The condition has been linked to:

  • Spasm in other arteries, causing conditions such as migraine or Raynaud's syndrome
  • Thyrotoxicosis (excessive thyroid hormone)
  • Chronic allergic conditions such as Samter's Triad (asthma, nasal polyps and aspirin allergy)
  • Smoking
  • Drinking large amounts of alcohol
  • Menstrual cycles
  • Some chemotherapy drugs
  • Low magnesium