SymptomsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Angina symptoms include:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Pain in your arms, neck, jaw, shoulder or back accompanying chest pain
- Shortness of breath
The chest pain and discomfort common with angina may be described as pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. Some people with angina symptoms describe angina as feeling like a vise is squeezing their chest, or feeling like a heavy weight has been placed on their chest.
The severity, duration and type of angina can vary. It's important to recognize if you have new or changing chest pain. New or different symptoms may signal a more dangerous form of angina (unstable angina) or a heart attack.
Stable angina is the most common form of angina and typically occurs with exertion and goes away with rest. If chest pain is a new symptom for you, it's important to see your doctor to find out what's causing your chest pain and to get proper treatment. If your stable angina gets worse or changes, seek medical attention immediately.
Characteristics of stable angina
- Develops when your heart works harder, such as when you exercise or climb stairs
- Can usually be predicted and the pain is usually similar to previous types of chest pain you've had
- Lasts a short time, perhaps five minutes or less
- Disappears sooner if you rest or use your angina medication
- Could feel like indigestion
- Might spread to your arms, back or other areas
- Can be triggered by mental or emotional stress
Characteristics of unstable angina (a medical emergency)
- Occurs even at rest
- Is a change in your usual pattern of angina
- Is unexpected
- Is usually more severe and lasts longer than stable angina, maybe as long as 30 minutes
- May not disappear with rest or use of angina medication
- Might signal a heart attack
Characteristics of variant angina (Prinzmetal's angina)
- Usually happens when you're resting
- Is often severe
- May be relieved by angina medication
Prinzmetal's angina is rare — only about 2 percent of angina cases are Prinzmetal's angina. This type of angina is caused by a spasm in your heart's arteries that temporarily reduces blood flow.
Angina in women
A woman's angina symptoms can be different from the classic angina symptoms. For example, a woman may have chest pain that feels like a stabbing, pulsating or sharp form of chest pain rather than the more typical vise-like pressure. Women are also more likely to experience symptoms, such as nausea, shortness of breath or abdominal pain. These differences may lead to delays in seeking treatment.
When to see a doctor
If your chest pain lasts longer than a few minutes and doesn't go away when you rest or take your angina medications, it may be a sign you're having a heart attack. Call 911 or emergency medical help. Arrange for transportation. Only drive yourself to the hospital as a last resort.
- Angina. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Angina/Angina_All.html. Accessed March 14, 2011.
- Angina pectoris. American Heart Association. http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4472. Accessed March 14, 2011.
- ACC/AHA management of patients with unstable angina/non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction — Pocket guideline. American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. http://www.americanheart.org/downloadable/heart/1194979355638UA-NSTEMI.Text.Final.pdf. Accessed March 14, 2011.
- Patient information sheet: Ranolazine. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Cder/drug/InfoSheets/patient/ranolazine.pdf. Accessed March 14, 2011.
- L-arginine. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed March 11, 2011.
- Ruel M, et al. Concomitant treatment with oral L-arginine improves the efficacy of surgical angiogenesis in patients with severe diffuse coronary artery disease: The endothelial modulation in angiogenic therapy randomized controlled trial. Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. 2008;135:762.
- L-carnitine. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed March 11, 2011.
- Ferrari R, et al. Therapeutic effects of l-carnitine and propionyl-l-carnitine on cardiovascular diseases: A review. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2004;1033:79.