Heart failure symptoms

November 12, 2012

Heart failure symptoms

Heart failure symptoms are easily confused with other medical conditions relating to the heart and the lungs, any patient who experiences a sudden increase in symptoms or in their severity should seek the advice of their medical practitioner. Any new symptoms should also be referred to the doctor as they may well be indicative of advanced congestive heart failure.

What is congestive heart failure?

The function of the heart is to pump blood around the body in order that the body and its vital organs and systems are able to properly function. Deoxygenated blood is carried to the heart, transferred to the lungs to be oxygenated, when it is then passed back to the heart and back to the body. When the heart is unable to adequately pump sufficient blood for the body’s needs it means that congestive heart failure is beginning to develop. As congestive heart failure worsens it also causes other problems such as high blood pressure and coronary heart disease which will gradually weaken the heart and exacerbate the congestive heart failure. When diagnosed correctly and quickly heart failure symptoms can be dealt with medically – although any damage already done may be irreversible.

Heart failure symptoms

  • Kidney failure – due to the inability of the heart to pump sufficient blood around the body the function of vital organs may be negatively affected. The inability of the kidneys to excrete salts and water in their usual way will contribute to the effects of water retention and oedema.

  • Shortness of breath or breathlessness – patients suffering congestive heart failure often feel breathless on exertion or when laid down. This may well be due to fluid build up in the lungs (pulmonary oedema)

  • Reduced levels of concentration and alertness, confusion, an apparent degradation of mental function.

  • Coughing and wheezing, a persistent cough is a common heart failure symptom and is often a mucus producing cough – if the mucus is tinged with pink that may indicated the presence of blood.

  • Oedema in the feet, ankles, legs and abdomen – due to sluggish blood circulation and fluid retention.

  • Fatigue – fatigue is often an early heart failure symptom but, obviously, it is a non-specific symptom with many possible causes. The extreme fatigue experienced by patients with heart failure, even in its early stages, may well mean an inability to exercise as normal.

  • Sleeplessness – many patients suffering with heart failure are unable to sleep unless they are in an upright position.

  • Fluid build-up in the liver reduces the effectiveness of liver function in protein production and excretion of toxins from the body. Patients may experience nausea, pain and a decreased appetite due to reduced liver function.

  • Reduced blood flow to the intestinal tract and associated organs will result in reduced levels of nutrients and medication being absorbed.

Heart failure symptoms will gradually worsen as the disease develops and in the event that it fails to respond to medication. Heart failure which is left untreated or unmanaged will, eventually, affect all the major and vital organs of the body.


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