Angina Symptoms

Symptoms Based on Type

While these are the general signs of angina, symptoms can also vary based on the type of angina a person has (stable, unstable, or variant angina).
Stable Angina
The pain or discomfort associated with stable angina:
  • Occurs when the heart must work harder, usually during physical exertion
  • Is expected, and episodes of pain tend to be alike
  • Usually lasts a short time (five 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 associated with unstable angina:
  • Often occurs at rest, while sleeping at night, or with little physical exertion
  • Is unexpected
  • 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 continuously worse
  • May signal that a heart attack will happen soon.
Variant Angina Symptoms
The pain or discomfort associated with variant angina:
  • Usually occurs at rest and during the night or early morning hours
  • Tends to be severe
  • Is relieved by angina medicine.

What to Do When Angina Symptoms Occur

Chest pain that lasts longer than a few minutes and that is not relieved by rest or angina medicine may mean you are having -- or are about to have -- a heart attack. Call 911 right away if you experience this type of pain.

Final Thoughts on the Symptoms of Angina

Angina most often occurs when the coronary arteries become hardened and narrowed due to plaque buildup from a condition called atherosclerosis. This narrowing of blood vessels can make it difficult to get enough blood to the heart muscle, especially during times of exertion. This can result in angina symptoms. If you have angina, make sure to talk with your healthcare provider about what to do when symptoms occur. He or she is in the best position to understand your particular situation and give recommendations.
Written by/reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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