Concerned about Chest Pain Symptoms?
Have the Right Diagnostic Tests Done at Cardio-Med

Heart Disease Symptoms

Chest Pain - Angina

Angina (an-JI-nuh or AN-juh-nuh) is sharp chest pain or discomfort that occurs when an area of your heart muscle doesn't get enough oxygen-rich blood. Angina symptoms may feel like pressure or squeezing in your chest. The pain also may occur in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. It can feel like indigestion.

Angina itself isn't a disease. Rather, it's one of the heart disease symptoms. Chest pain symptoms usually indicate coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common type of heart disease.

CAD occurs when a fatty material called plaque (plak) builds up on the inner walls of the coronary arteries. These arteries carry oxygen-rich blood to your heart. When plaque builds up in the arteries, the condition is called atherosclerosis (ATH-er-o-skler-O-sis).

Figure A shows a normal artery with normal blood flow. Figure B shows an artery containing plaque buildup.

Plaque causes the coronary arteries to become narrow and stiff. The flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle is reduced. This causes angina symptoms such as pain and can lead to a heart attack.

Cardio-Med in Arlington Heights, IL has facilities for thorough testing for the diagnosis of heart conditions. Feel free to call (847) 758-1230 for an appointment.

Types of Angina

The three types of angina are stable, unstable, and variant (Prinzmetal's). Knowing how the types are different is important. This is because they have different heart disease symptoms and require different treatment.

Stable Angina

Stable angina is the most common type. It occurs when the heart is working harder than usual. Stable angina has a regular pattern. If you know you have stable angina, you can learn to recognize the pattern of angina symptoms and predict when the pain will occur.

The pain usually goes away in a few minutes after you rest or take your angina medicine.

Stable angina isn't a heart attack, but it makes a heart attack more likely in the future.

Unstable Angina

Unstable angina doesn't follow a pattern. It can occur with or without physical exertion and isn't relieved by rest or medicine.

Unstable angina is very dangerous and needs emergency treatment. Such angina is one of the heart attack signs.

Variant (Prinzmetal's) Angina

Variant angina is rare. It usually occurs while you're at rest. Variant angina symptoms such as pain can be severe. They usually happen between midnight and early morning. This type of angina is relieved by medicine.


It's thought that nearly 7 million people in the United States suffer from angina. About 400,000 patients go to their doctors with new cases of angina every year.

Angina occurs equally in men and women. It can be a heart disease symptom, even when initial tests don't show evidence of CAD.

Not all sharp chest pain or discomfort is angina. A heart attack, lung problems (such as an infection or a blood clot), heartburn, or a panic attack also can cause chest pain or discomfort. All chest pain should be checked by a doctor.

Adapted from National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, November 2007