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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Angina?

Pain and discomfort are the main symptoms of angina. Angina often is described as pressure, squeezing, burning, or tightness in the chest. The pain or discomfort usually starts behind the breastbone.

Pain from angina also can occur in the arms, shoulders, neck, jaw, throat, or back. The pain may feel like indigestion. Some people say that angina pain is hard to describe or that they can't tell exactly where the pain is coming from.

Signs and symptoms such as nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), fatigue (tiredness), shortness of breath, sweating, light-headedness, and weakness also may occur.

Women are more likely to feel discomfort in the neck, jaw, throat, abdomen, or back. Shortness of breath is more common in older people and those who have diabetes. Weakness, dizziness, and confusion can mask the signs and symptoms of angina in elderly people.

Symptoms also vary based on the type of angina you have.

Because angina has so many possible symptoms and causes, all chest pain should be checked by a doctor. Chest pain that lasts longer than a few minutes and isn't relieved by rest or angina medicine may be a sign of a heart attack. Call 9–1–1 right away.

Stable Angina

The pain or discomfort:

  • Occurs when the heart must work harder, usually during physical exertion
  • Doesn't come as a surprise, and episodes of pain tend to be alike
  • Usually lasts a short time (5 minutes or less)
  • Is relieved by rest or medicine
  • May feel like gas or indigestion
  • May feel like chest pain that spreads to the arms, back, or other areas

Unstable Angina

The pain or discomfort:

  • Often occurs at rest, while sleeping at night, or with little physical exertion
  • Comes as a surprise
  • Is more severe and lasts longer than stable angina (as long as 30 minutes)
  • Usually isn’t relieved by rest or medicine
  • May get worse over time
  • May mean that a heart attack will happen soon

Variant Angina

The pain or discomfort:

  • Usually occurs at rest and during the night or early morning hours
  • Tends to be severe
  • Is relieved by medicine

Microvascular Angina

The pain or discomfort:

  • May be more severe and last longer than other types of angina pain
  • May occur with shortness of breath, sleep problems, fatigue, and lack of energy
  • Often is first noticed during routine daily activities and times of mental stress
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Angina Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Angina, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.


 
June 01, 2011 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.