Unstable and Stable Angina | Tampa General Hospital


Angina is chest pain you feel when your heart doesn’t get enough blood.  

Angina pectoris, or angina, is a type of chest pain or pressure that occurs when the heart does not receive enough oxygen-rich blood. The pain that characterizes angina isn’t a condition, but is a symptom or warning sign of heart disease.

Angina can be classified as either:

  • Stable – Stable angina is present only after a specific and predictable trigger, such as stress or exercise. This condition is not life-threatening, although it does indicate the presence of serious issues that could lead to a heart attack or stroke if left untreated. 
  • Unstable – Unstable angina occurs randomly and without a specific cause. This condition is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment. 

Other types of angina include microvascular angina and variant (Prinzmetal) angina.

Causes of Angina 

Angina is typically caused by an underlying heart condition or issue, such as: 

  • A blood clot in an artery  
  • Heart muscle spasms 

People may be at a higher risk for angina if they have one or more of the following health conditions: 

  • Diabetes 
  • Heart failure
  • High cholesterol
  • Blood pressure that is too high or too low 
  • Heart valve disease 
  • Anemia 
  • An enlarged heart  
  • Obesity 

Symptoms of Angina 

Angina typically feels like a tight, squeezing pressure in the chest, although it can also occur in the shoulders, arms, back, neck or jaw. In some cases, it can be difficult to determine where the pain is coming from, and some individuals have a hard time distinguishing it from indigestion. 

Some people may also experience: 

  • Pain the abdomen
  • Excessive sweating 
  • Shortness of breath  
  • Fatigue 

If you are experiencing sudden chest pain that was not caused by a known trigger, feels more severe than past stable angina episodes or you think you’re having a heart attack, call 911 immediately.

Diagnosing Angina 

If you’re experiencing chest pain, your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam.  Diagnosing angina may also include other tests, such as: 

  • Complete blood count  
  • X-rays of the chest  
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Cardiac stress test 
  • Echocardiogram 
  • Coronary angiography and cardiac catheterization 
  • Coronary computed tomography angiogram (CTA) 

Treating stable angina will likely include long-term management plans, including diagnostic services to pinpoint the underlying cause and any potential triggers as well as preventive surgery to help reduce the likelihood of future cardiac events. 

Treatments for Angina 

Treating angina often begins with methods that address the underlying heart conditions causing discomfort. At Tampa General Hospital, our heart and vascular specialists will work closely together to diagnose heart conditions and provide the treatments that suit each patient individually.  

Some treatment options may include: 

  • Medications that reduce cholesterol, high blood pressure and blood clotting capabilities 
  • Surgery, such as angioplasty and stenting or coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) surgery