Symptoms of Angina

An episode of angina can be experienced in different ways by different people. Chest pain and discomfort are still the main symptoms of angina. The pain may also be experienced as a sensation of heaviness, pressure, tightening or burning in or around the chest. Usually, pain begins directly behind the breastbone. Angina pain can also be felt in the shoulders, jaw, neck, abdomen or back. Often people suffering with angina are unable to accurately describe where the pain is originating from.

Angina can have many different symptoms and causes, so any chest pain should cause you to seek medical advice. If chest pain lasts longer than 5 minutes or is not relieved by rest and/or your angina medication, you should call 9111 immediately. These could be signs you are having a heart attack.

Other Angina Symptoms

Angina attacks can have additional symptoms other than chest pain.

  • Unexplained nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sensation of indigestion or gas
  • Excessive sweatiness
  • Dizziness or light headedness
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Weakness
  • Low energy levels
  • Women are more likely to experience pain or pressure in the abdomen, jaw, neck or back area.
  • Shortness of breath occurs more commonly in older adults and those persons with diabetes.
  • Weakness, dizziness or confusion can mask angina symptoms in the elderly population.

Symptoms can vary widely based on gender, age, other conditions and the type of angina you have.

Stable Angina

Those people with stable angina are typically not surprised by an angina attack. They are familiar with what activities might trigger an episode of angina. The pain of stable angina is typically short lived, lasting about five minutes.

  • Occurs during physical exertion, such as exercise or sexual intercourse.
  • Each episode is the same
  • Is short- lived, typically about five minutes
  • Relief is gained through rest or use of angina medication
  • Sometimes is felt as indigestion
  • Sometimes travels to the back, arms or jaw

Unstable Angina

The pain of unstable angina is often sudden in onset and severe. There may not be a trigger such as physical activity. Any chest pain that is sudden, different or lasts more than five minutes could be a sign of a heart attack and you should seek emergency medical treatment.

  • Commonly occurs at rest, while asleep or with minimal activity
  • Onset is sudden
  • Pain is severe and different than stable angina pain
  • Gets worse with time
  • Is not relieved with rest or angina medication
  • Lasts longer than five minutes

Prinzmetal’s Angina

The pain of Prinzmetal’s (or Variant) angina is caused by spasms of the coronary arteries. Causes include smoking, use of cocaine or certain medications.

  • Pain occurs while at rest, while asleep or during the early morning
  • Pain is severe
  • Usually relieved by angina medications

Microvascular Angina

Microvascular angina affects more women than men, especially after menopause. Other high risk groups are those with diabetes and high blood pressure.

  • Pain is severe and is longer lasting than other types
  • Usually accompanied by shortness of breath, difficulty sleeping and excessive fatigue
  • Usually occurs during routine activity