Angina is a form of chest pain or discomfort caused by a temporary restriction of blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. This condition is classified as stable or unstable. Stable angina is more common, and it occurs due to factors that increase the heart's need for oxygen, such as exercise or stress. This type of angina is relieved by rest. Unstable angina is an unexpected pain or discomfort that doesn't follow a pattern and can occur at rest. Although women and men experience some of the same symptoms of angina, women are more likely to experience the pain and discomfort in different areas as well as certain non-typical symptoms.
Pain and Discomfort
Pain and discomfort associated with angina are described as pressure, fullness, pain, a vice-like squeezing of the chest or feeling like a heavy weight has been placed over the chest. Stable angina can be mistaken for indigestion. Women may also describe the pain as a stabbing, pulsating or a sharp feeling.
Location of Pain and Discomfort
The chest pain or discomfort can be felt along with pain in the arms, neck, jaw, shoulder or back. Women can feel the chest pain or discomfort in certain areas more so than men. According to a study published in the May 2001 issue of "Social Science and Medicine," women feel pain more often in the throat, neck and jaw areas, but another study published in the April 2003 issue of "The Canadian Journal of Cardiology" revealed that women feel more pain in the back of the shoulders and mid-back area.
Duration of Symptoms
The pain associated with stable angina usually lasts about two to five minutes. Unstable angina can last as long as 30 minutes, and this type of angina needs to be evaluated by a medical professional.
Symptoms of angina that are more often experienced by women include nausea, shortness of breath and abdominal pain. Since these symptoms may not be associated with chest pain, women may delay seeking treatment.
Additional symptoms of angina include fatigue, anxiety, sweating and dizziness.
Symptoms of stable angina go away with rest or angina medications, but these remedies may not always relieve the discomfort or pain symptoms of unstable angina.
People experiencing angina are at a greater risk of having a heart attack. Contact your physician or emergency medical services if you have unexplained chest pain, if the chest pain lasts longer than 20 minutes, if the pain isn't relieved with rest or angina medications, or if the pain is accompanied by weakness, nausea, sweating or fainting.