Angina Treatment

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Pain or discomfort in your chest lasting about 2-10 minutes? Do you feel it in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaws, or back? This could be angina

Types of angina include:

  • Stable angina — A predictable pattern that you can expect and know how to treat beforehand
  • Unstable angina — A more unpredictable and/or severe pattern, where chest pain may happen while resting or even sleeping (nocturnal angina), which may be a sign that you're about to have a heart attack
  • Variant or Prinzmetal's angina — A severe, temporary contraction of coronary arteries that occurs when you're at rest

Angina Treatment at UVA Health

We can check if you have angina with:

  • Blood tests
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Echocardiogram
  • Exercise stress test
  • Nuclear scanning
  • Electron-beam CT scan (coronary calcium scan, heart scan, CT angiography)
  • Coronary angiography

Rest or nitroglycerin usually makes the pain better. We also offer the following treatments. 


Your doctor may prescribe certain medicines to lower your risk of heart attack, lower your blood pressure, or prevent coronary artery disease from getting worse.


If you have severe angina or unstable, progressing angina, you may need:

Symptoms of Angina

The most common symptom is pressure or squeezing chest pain. Elderly people, women, and diabetics are more likely to have unusual or subtle symptoms.

You're more likely to have a heart attack if you have severe chest discomfort that lasts more than 15 minutes that comes along with other symptoms, like:

  • Pain in the shoulder(s), arm(s), or into you jaw
  • Weakness
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath

What Causes Angina?

Angina is usually a sign of coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD is when the blood vessels that lead to your heart are narrowed or blocked. That means less blood and oxygen flow to your heart.

When your heart isn't getting enough oxygen, you'll feel chest pain and other symptoms.

Other causes of angina include:

  • Exercise or exertion
  • Cold weather
  • A large meal
  • Emotional stress

Am I Likely to Get Angina?

Major risk factors for CAD include the following:

  • Being male
  • Older age
  • Strong family history of heart disease
  • Obesity 
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of exercise (sedentary lifestyle)
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Stress
  • Drinking too much alcohol