(Unstable Angina; Stable Angina; Angina Pectoris; Cardiac Angina; Variant Angina)
by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Angina is pain or discomfort in the chest. It often has a squeezing or pressure-like feel. This discomfort can also be felt in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaws, or back. Anginal pain usually lasts for no more than 2-10 minutes.
Types of angina include:
Angina is usually a sign of coronary artery disease (CAD). It occurs when the blood vessels leading to your heart are narrowed or blocked. The blockage decreases the blood and oxygen flow to your heart. When your heart is deprived of oxygen, you will feel chest pain and other symptoms.
Stable or Unstable Angina
Angina occurs when your heart's need for blood and oxygen is increased by:
Stable angina becomes unstable when symptoms:
CAD is more common in older men.
Other factors that may increase your risk of CAD include:
Symptoms may include:
The likelihood of a heart attack is increased when chest discomfort is severe, lasts more than 15 minutes, and is accompanied by other symptoms, such as:
Tests will be done right away to see if you are having an episode of angina or a heart attack. If you have a stable pattern of angina, other tests may be done to determine the extent of your disease. The test results will help to create a treatment plan.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
Images may be taken of your heart. This can be done with:
Your heart activity may be tested. This can be done with:
Treatments for angina include:
If you already have angina, you can prevent an onset by being aware of what starts it.
If you don't have angina, preventing the development of CAD may reduce your chance of getting the condition.
Steps to prevent CAD include managing risk factors:
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
College of Family Physicians of Canada
Explore angina. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/angina. Accessed August 19, 2019.
Management of angina. DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/management-of-stable-angina. Accessed August 19, 2019.
Reenan J. Clinical Pearl: Indications for bypass surgery. Virtual Mentor. February 2004;6:2. Available at:
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Accessed August 19, 2019.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 1/5/2021
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