Symptoms of angina 

The most common symptom of angina is a feeling of pain or discomfort in your chest. The pain can feel tight, dull or heavy.

The pain can spread from your chest to your left arm, neck, jaw and back. In some cases, the pain is similar to indigestion.

Chest pain may also occur with:

  • breathlessness
  • feeling sick
  • feeling unusually tired
  • dizziness
  • restlessness

Some people may experience breathlessness without any obvious chest pain.

Triggers

There are two types of angina, called stable and unstable angina. The symptoms of these two types are similar, but there are some important differences.

Attacks of stable angina usually occur when the heart is forced to work harder, for example during physical activity or emotional stress. In some cases, the pain can also develop after eating a meal or during cold weather. These are known as angina triggers. The symptoms of stable angina usually improve if you rest for a few minutes.

Unstable angina is more unpredictable. It can develop without any obvious triggers and can persist even when you are resting. Attacks of unstable angina may last longer than a few minutes and do not always respond to treatments used for stable angina.

When to seek medical help

Dial 999 to request an ambulance if you experience chest pain and you haven't previously been diagnosed with a heart problem.

If aspirin is easily available and you are not allergic to it, take one tablet while you are waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Chewable aspirin is best because it works faster than other forms. Aspirin helps to prevent blood clots and will reduce your risk of experiencing a heart attack or a stroke.

If you have an angina attack and you've previously been diagnosed with the condition, take the medication prescribed for you (called glyceryl trinitrate). A second dose can be taken after five minutes if the first dose is ineffective. If there is no improvement five minutes after the second dose, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

Page last reviewed: 13/06/2013

Next review due: 13/06/2015