Heart Failure Symptoms

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» Request a referral to a John C. Lincoln heart failure treatment specialist.

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John C. Lincoln Hospitals are specialized in providing heart failure treatment. Our hospitals were first in Arizona to earn full accreditation as heart failure centers. Learn about our heart failure centers.

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Heart failure symptoms provide the keys to detecting heart failure in its earliest stages. This is why John C. Lincoln Hospitals wants you and your loved ones to recognize heart failure symptoms, and talk with your physician when these symptoms become present.

Heart failure symptoms depend upon the area of the heart that has become damaged or weakened.

  • Left-sided heart failure is most likely to involve edema (swelling) congestion in the lungs, accompanied by trouble breathing.
  • Right-sided heart failure typically results in edema in the feet, ankles, legs, fingers, abdomen and abdominal organs. Because a weakened heart cannot pump out enough blood, it has less room to accommodate blood returning from other parts of the body. Sudden weight gain, resulting from this swelling, is therefore common.

While symptoms involving heart failure may be isolated to one area of the body, the effects of heart failure can be felt throughout the body, and severely impair one's quality of life.

Left-Sided Heart Failure Indications

Left-sided heart failure is related to pulmonary congestion. The left side of the heart receives oxygen-rich blood from the lungs. When the left side is not pumping correctly, blood backs up in the blood vessels of the lungs. This symptom of heart failure is called pulmonary edema. As blood backs up in the lungs, pressure in the veins of the lungs builds up. Fluids within the lungs are pushed into breathing spaces, interrupting the normal flow of oxygen.

Related symptoms include:

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Request a referral to a John C. Lincoln heart failure specialist
  • Shortness of breath: Most commonly, shortness of breath becomes a problem during physical activity. Yet, it can also happen during rest. Difficulty breathing may occur suddenly at night, but this heart failure symptom may subside by moving around. Some persons use extra pillows to prop up their upper body to breathe more easily in bed.
  • Persistent cough: A seemingly unexplained cough will produce pink phlegm, containing blood.
  • Pulmonary crackles: Popping sounds produced when air is forced through lung passages that are narrowed by fluid buildup.
  • Third heart sound: The normal heartbeat has two sounds, which is made as the heart contracts (pumps blood) and expands (fills with blood). With heart failure, a third sound becomes apparent: The walls of the heart's ventricles vibrate when blood fills the heart.
  • Reduced urine output: The kidneys require adequate blood flow to function properly, and perfuse (remove) unnecessary sodium and water from the body. With heart failure, the kidneys cannot function properly. Sodium remains in the body, retaining water.
  • Low oxygen saturation levels: This results from the heart's inability to receive oxygen-rich blood from the lungs.
  • Altered digestion.
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness and confusion.
  • Restlessness and anxiety.
  • Fatigue and weakness.

Right-Sided Heart Failure Indications

Edema (persistent swelling) of the feet, ankles and legs is the most common symptom of heart failure in the right side of the heart. Edema also can become apparent in the fingers, abdomen and abdominal organs.

Sudden weight gain, resulting from swelling, is therefore common.

Other symptoms involving the right side of the heart include:

  • Enlargement of the liver.
  • Ascites: Excess fluid between the tissues lining the abdomen and abdominal organs.
  • Severe loss of appetite, accompanied by abdominal pain and nausea.
  • Weakness.

» Request a referral to a John C. Lincoln heart failure treatment specialist.