What are the symptoms of congestive heart failure?

Symptoms of congestive heart failure are due to a lack of oxygen in the tissues of the body caused by a damaged heart that cannot pump blood efficiently. Symptoms can vary between individuals and can differ depending on the severity of the disease and the side of the heart affected (left side, right side, or both sides).

It is common to have some symptoms of both left-sided and right-sided congestive heart failure. Early symptoms may develop slowly, and in some cases, you may not have noticeable symptoms until congestive heart failure has progressed and become severe.

Symptoms of right-sided congestive heart failure

The primary symptom of congestive heart failure caused by damage to the right side of the heart is swelling (edema) of the feet and ankles. In more severe cases, edema can extend to the legs, abdomen, upper extremities, and face.

Symptoms of right-sided congestive heart failure include:

  • Fatigue
  • Malaise (feeling sick)
  • Swelling (edema), which may include swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, arms and face
  • Weakness
  • Weight gain

    Symptoms of left-sided congestive heart failure

    The primary symptom of congestive heart failure caused by damage to the left side of the heart is shortness of breath and difficulty breathing (dyspnea) due to a buildup of fluid in the lungs. A buildup of fluid in the lungs is called pulmonary edema.

    Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing can occur at rest or with exertion and often occurs when lying down, which can interrupt sleep. In mild cases, shortness of breath can be relieved to various degrees by sleeping in a semi-upright position.

    Congestion and fluid in the lungs also lead to wheezing, chest pain, and an ongoing cough that brings up frothy phlegm that may be tinged with blood.

    Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

    Left-sided congestive heart failure can result in an immediately life-threatening condition called acute pulmonary edema, a sudden buildup of fluid in the lungs. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have symptoms of left-sided congestive heart failure including:

    • Anxiety and restlessness

    • Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness

    • Change in mental status or sudden behavior change, such as confusion, delirium, lethargy, hallucinations and delusions

    • Chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure, palpitations

    • Cold, clammy skin

    • Dizziness

    • Fatigue and weakness

    • Loose, wet cough that may produce frothy and possibly blood-tinged phlegm

    • Pallor (an extremely pale or grayish coloring) or cyanosis (a bluish coloring of the nails, lips and possibly the skin)

    • Respiratory or breathing problems, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, labored breathing, wheezing, not breathing, or choking


    INTRODUCTION

    What is congestive heart failure?

    Congestive heart failure, also called CHF or heart failure, is a serious and complex disease in which the heart muscle has been damaged or has to work too hard because of heart disease and other conditions, such as obesity. Although the heart continues to beat, the damaged heart muscle is too weak to efficiently pum... Read more about congestive heart failureintroduction

    CAUSES

    What causes congestive heart failure?

    Congestive heart failure is a common complication of heart diseases and conditions that damage the heart muscle or make it work too hard. This makes the heart weak and unable to pump blood effectively through the body. Diseases, disorders and conditions that can cause congestive heart failure include:

    TREATMENTS

    How is congestive heart failure treated?

    Congestive heart failure is a complex disease that requires a treatment plan that uses a multifaceted approach that is individualized to the type and severity of your congestive heart failure, your risk factors, lifestyle, medical history, age, and other factors. Congestive heart failure is a serious, life-threatening disease, but it is not always fatal. The prognosis depends on the severity of... Read more about congestive heart failuretreatments

    Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

    This Article is Filed Under: Heart, Blood and Circulation