Angina is chest pain, discomfort, or tightness.
It may present in the form of an angina attack, pain, or discomfort in the chest that typically lasts from 1 to 15 minutes. The condition is classified by the pattern of attacks into stable, unstable, and variant angina.
Fast facts on angina
Angina is not a disease in itself, but a symptom of heart disease.
Attacks are caused by reduced oxygen in the blood reaching the heart.
Symptoms include tightness and difficulty breathing.
Treatment options can range from lifestyle changes to medications.
What is angina?
Angina is a chest pain linked to heart disease.
Angina is not a disease in its own right but a probable symptom of coronary artery disease.
It is a tightness, pain, or discomfort in the chest that occurs when an area of the heart muscle receives less blood oxygen than usual.
It is not a life-threatening condition when experienced on its own.
However, if a person is experiencing angina, it is a strong indicator that they have a type of heart disease.
There are several types of angina.
Stable or chronic angina
Stable angina occurs when the heart is working harder than usual, for instance, during exercise. It has a regular pattern and can be predicted to happen over months or even years. Rest or medication relieves symptoms.
Unstable angina does not follow a regular pattern. It can occur when at rest and is considered less common and more serious because rest and medication do not relieve it. This version can signal a future heart attack within a short time – hours or weeks.
Variant and microvascular angina
Variant or Prinzmetal’s angina and microvascular angina are rare and can occur at rest without any underlying coronary artery disease. This angina is usually due to abnormal narrowing or relaxation of the blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the heart. It can be relieved by medicine.
Angina is usually felt in the chest region as:
burning or aching across the chest, usually starting behind the breastbone
This pain often spreads to the neck, jaw, arms, shoulders, throat, back, or even the teeth.
Patients may also complain of symptoms including:
shortness of breath
Stable angina usually lasts a short period and may feel like gas or indigestion. Unstable angina occurs at rest, is surprising, lasts longer, and may worsen over time. Variant angina occurs at rest and is usually severe.