Angina symptoms include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Pain in your arms, neck, jaw, shoulder or back accompanying chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness

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. For others, it may feel like indigestion.

The severity, duration and type of angina can vary. It's important to recognize if you have new or changing chest discomfort. 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 discomfort 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

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 uncommon — 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, women often experience symptoms such as nausea, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, or extreme fatigue, with or without with chest pain. Or a woman may feel discomfort in her neck, jaw or back or stabbing pain instead of the more typical chest pressure. 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.

Jul. 12, 2013