Angina is a type of chest pain that occurs when there is not enough blood flow to the heart muscle. This is often a result of narrowed blood vessels, usually caused by hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).

Angina is a symptom of coronary artery disease. Angina pain is often described as a tightness or squeezing in the chest and a heaviness or weight on the chest. Chest pain from angina can spread (radiate):

  • Down the left arm.
  • To the left shoulder.
  • To the back.
  • To the neck or lower jaw.
  • Down the right arm.

Other symptoms of angina include shortness of breath, nausea, and a cold, sweaty feeling. Angina is often relieved by rest and medicines.

The pain of angina often occurs during activities that make the heart work harder. Angina may occur while climbing stairs, having sex, or eating a large meal. It also may occur during exposure to cold or times of emotional stress.

Last Updated: May 5, 2009

Author: Robin Parks, MS

Medical Review: Caroline S. Rhoads, MD - Internal Medicine & John A. McPherson, MD, FACC, FSCAI - Cardiology

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