Synonyms: Angina pectoris, Chest pain

Medical Specialties: Cardiology, Family practice, Internal medicine

Clinical Definition

Angina, or chest pain, is the most common symptom of coronary artery disease. Caused by ischemia, angina is often due to a clot forming in a partially blocked coronary artery. Angina can be described as discomfort or heaviness in the chest. Too often, this acute and dangerous symptom is passed off as simple indigestion or heartburn. 

In Our Own Words

More than 6 million Americans suffer with angina, or chest pain. Angina is a specific type of chest pain that occurs when a part (or parts) of the heart do not get adequate blood flow (ischemia). Angina is often described as a heavy feeling in the chest, as well as tightness, pressure, deep ache, squeezing or fullness. While angina is mostly felt in the chest area, it may also be felt in other parts of the body, such as the arms, jaw or back.  

Angina might be accompanied by other symptoms that are suggestive of a heart attack, such as nausea, sweating or palpitations. In a heart attack,  angina is usually more severe, usually lasting longer than five minutes, and medication or rest does not relieve the pain. Patients are urged to err on the side of caution. For angina lasting more than five minutes, call an ambulance and get emergency medical help.

Relevant Conditions
  • Coronary artery disease (heart disease)
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Myocardial infarction
Common Types
  • Stable (chest pain during activity)
  • Unstable (chest pain with no apparent reason)
  • Variant angina (or Prinzmetal's angina, coronary spasm)
Side Effects
  • Chest pain
  • Chest tightness or pressure
  • Deep aching, burning, squeezing
Share this article
  • The Cleveland Clinic. "Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease." Heart Disorders. Jan. 2010. Accessed July 2013.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Heart Disease: Other Related Conditions." April 2012. Accessed July 2013.
  • University of Maryland Medical Center. "Angina." Condition. Accessed July 2013.
  • University of Maryland Medical Center. "Angina." Condition. Accessed July 2013.
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