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Heart Failure

What Are The Symptoms Of Heart Failure?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 09:57

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Many people with heart failure remain undiagnosed because their symptoms are often overlooked, ignored, or attributed to aging. And symptoms of heart failure may be similar to those of other diseases.

The symptoms result from the inability of the heart to supply enough oxygen to meet the tissues needs and from the backup of blood in the veins. Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath from the increased pressure or fluid (or both) in the lungs. This is a common symptom of heart failure and is referred to as pulmonary congestion, or, if it is severe, pulmonary edema. Although breathlessness is usually noticed during exercise, you may notice it when you rest.
  • Shortness of breath when lying down, a condition called orthopnea, occurs when the extra fluid kept in the legs by gravity returns to your chest after you lie down.
  • Excessive fatigue occurs when your organs are not getting enough oxygen. An important indication that your fatigue may be a sign of heart failure is if you are as tired in the morning when you get up as you are when you go to bed at night.
  • Swollen ankles or legs is called peripheral edema and often is a result of right-sided heart failure. Fluid cannot be pumped out to the lungs at an efficient rate, so fluid backs up in the veins, leaks out, and accumulates in tissues. However, swollen ankles or legs also can be caused by other conditions, such as liver problems or a side effect of certain medications.
  • Frequent urination - going to the bathroom more often occurs as the kidneys try to eliminate the extra fluid in the body.

Nice To Know:

Why the weight gain in heart failure?

To make up for the decreased blood flow, the brain signals to the kidneys to retain fluid in the blood.

When the body fills with fluid, you may also gain weight and notice edema (swelling) of the skin and soft tissues. This swelling is characterized by a gradual filling out after you depress the area with your finger. You may notice that your weight has increased before you notice swelling of the ankles or other extremities. Weight increases by about two pounds for each extra quart of fluid. You also may notice that a ring, watch, or belt feels too tight.

 

Heart Failure