Health A-Z

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Angina usually feels like a pressing, burning or squeezing pain in the chest. The main pain usually is under the breastbone. The pain may spread up toward the throat and into the jaw. The discomfort may be felt in the left arm and sometimes in both arms. People with angina often break out into a cold sweat. Other symptoms can include shortness of breath, lightheadedness and nausea.

Doctors divide angina into two types:

  • Stable angina Chest pain follows a specific pattern, occurring when someone engages in physical activity or experiences strong emotion. Exertion in cold weather or after a large meal is more likely to bring on angina. The symptoms should quickly subside once the person rests and relaxes.

  • Unstable angina Symptoms are less predictable. This chest pain occurs at rest, during sleep or very often with minimal exertion. The discomfort may last and be intense. You should seek medical care immediately if this occurs, even if the chest pain has resolved.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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