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Angina facts

  • If you are having pain or pressure in the middle of your chest, left neck, left shoulder, or left arm, go immediately to the nearest hospital emergency department. Do not drive yourself. Call 911 for emergency transport.
  • Angina or angina pectoris, is the medical term used to describe the temporary chest discomfort that occurs when the heart is not getting enough blood. When the heart does not get enough blood, it can no longer function at its full capacity.
  • When a person with angina eats, physically exerts themselves, or experiences strong emotions or extreme temperatures it increases the demand on the heart causing angina.
  • Signs and symptoms of angina are temporary pain, pressure, fullness, or squeezing in the center of the chest or in the neck, shoulder, jaw, upper arm, or upper back.
  • The discomfort of angina is temporary, meaning a few seconds or minutes, not lasting hours or all day.
  • An episode of angina can be relieved by removing the stressor and/or taking sublingual (under the tongue) nitroglycerin.
  • An episode of angina is not a heart attack; however, having angina does means you have an increased risk of having a heart attack. Angina can be a helpful warning sign if it makes a person seek timely medical help and avoid a heart attack.
  • Prolonged or unchecked angina can lead to a heart attack or increase the risk of having a heart rhythm abnormality. Either of those could lead to sudden death.
  • Time is very important in angina. The more time the heart is deprived of adequate blood flow (ischemia), and thus oxygen, the more the heart muscle is at risk of heart attack or heart rhythm abnormalities. The longer the person experiences chest pain from angina, the more the heart muscle is at risk of dying or malfunctioning.
  • If chest pain is severe and/or recurrent, the person should see a health-care professional.
  • Go to a hospital emergency department if the affected person has any of the following with chest pain:
    • Sweating,
    • Weakness,
    • Faintness,
    • Numbness or tingling, or
    • Nausea
    • Pain that does not go away after a few minutes
    • Pain that is of concern in any way
  • Not all chest pain is angina. Pain in the chest can come from a number of causes, which range from not serious to very serious. For example, chest pain can be caused by
Last Reviewed 11/20/2017

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Chest Pain Causes

The two large group of causes of chest pain are cardiac-related problems and non-cardiac related problems. Cardiac-related chest pain is most commonly referred to as angina.

Examples of non-cardiac related causes of chest pain are:

  • Infections
  • Lung trauma or tumors
  • Gastric reflux
  • Upper abdominal pain
Atrial Fibrillation Slideshow

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Angina Pectoris »

Angina pectoris is the result of myocardial ischemia caused by an imbalance between myocardial blood supply and oxygen demand.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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