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What Are the Signs and Symptoms...

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Angina?

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

Pain from angina also can occur in the arms, shoulders, neck, jaw, throat, or back. It may feel like indigestion.

Some people say that angina discomfort is hard to describe or that they can't tell exactly where the pain is coming from.

Symptoms such as nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), fatigue (tiredness), shortness of breath, sweating, light-headedness, or weakness also may occur. Women are more likely to feel discomfort in their back, shoulders, and abdomen.

Symptoms vary based on the type of angina.

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 (as long as 30 minutes) than episodes of stable angina
  • Is usually not relieved with rest or medicine
  • May get continually worse
  • 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

Lasting Chest Pain

Chest pain that lasts longer than a few minutes and isn't relieved by rest or angina medicine may mean you're having (or are about to have) a heart attack. Call 9–1–1 right away.

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Author/Source: National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute, Division of the National Institutes of Health [NIH]

 

Retrieved: June 2008

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