Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. In the presence of signs and symptoms of myocardial ischaemia, women are more likely than men to have no obstructive coronary artery disease (CAD). Women have a greater burden of symptoms than men, and are often falsely reassured despite the presence of ischaemic heart disease because of a lack of obstructive CAD. Coronary microvascular dysfunction should be considered as an aetiology for ischaemic heart disease with signs and symptoms of myocardial ischaemia, but no obstructive CAD. Coronary microvascular dysfunction is defined as impaired coronary flow reserve owing to functional and/or structural abnormalities of the microcirculation, and is associated with an adverse cardiovascular prognosis. Therapeutic lifestyle changes as well as antiatherosclerotic and antianginal medications might be beneficial, but clinical outcome trials are needed to guide treatment. In this Review, we discuss the prevalence, presentation, diagnosis, and treatment of coronary microvascular dysfunction, with a particular emphasis on ischaemic heart disease in women.