Angina Symptoms

Angina is a symptom of ischemic heart disease (IHD). Episodes of stable angina typically are brought on by exertion or emotion and are relieved with rest. An attack of stable angina usually lasts from 1 to 5 minutes and is described as

  • squeezing,
  • choking,
  • smothering, or
  • crushing pressure in the chest.

Angina pain may radiate to the shoulders, arms, back, neck, or jaw. Patients with atherosclerosis also may experience sweating, clamminess, shortness of breath (dyspnea), nausea and a sensation like indigestion.

Unstable angina causes symptoms that are more severe, more frequent, and occur with modestly increased physical activity and at rest. Blood clots may form at anytime and may partially dissolve spontaneously. Whenever this occurs, blood flow to heart tissue is blocked and angina occurs.

An attack of unstable angina may last several minutes to half an hour or longer. Unstable angina is an acute coronary syndrome, which is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention.

Patients with variant angina usually experience intense pain when they are at rest, sometimes waking them from sleep.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 02 Jul 2000

Last Modified: 02 Oct 2014