Edema is a common complication of heart failure. It is not typically dangerous in itself, but the location and severity of the swelling can be an indicator of how severe the heart failure is.
Some types of edema, such as pulmonary edema, are a medical emergency. This condition causes fluid to accumulate around the lungs, leading to coughing and shortness of breath.
This article explores heart failure and edema, including the link between them, whether the edema is serious, the treatment options, and more.
When a person has heart failure, the heart muscles cannot pump blood as effectively as they should. The heart
This elevation in pressure forces fluid out of the blood vessels and into the surrounding tissues, resulting in swelling, or edema.
In contrast, diastolic heart failure occurs when the heart muscles become stiff and have difficulty relaxing between contractions, negatively affecting the heart’s filling capacity.
Either type of heart failure can lead to edema.
Lower limb edema is a hallmark symptom of heart failure. It occurs due to the effects of gravity. Individuals may notice swelling and tightness in these areas, making walking or wearing shoes difficult.
Edema can also affect other body parts, depending on the severity and progression of heart failure. For instance, individuals may experience abdominal swelling, known as ascites. This occurs due to fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity, causing distension and discomfort.
In more advanced cases of heart failure, edema
Edema can occur in the later stages of heart failure, but it does not always indicate a person is in the final stage of heart failure.
Doctors use heart failure
- Stage A: This includes people who are at risk of heart failure.
- Stage B: At this stage, structural heart disease develops, but most people still do not experience symptoms.
- Stage C: People show symptoms of heart failure, including fatigue, breathlessness, and edema. However, edema may not be a prominent feature, or it may be milder and localized.
- Stage D: In stage D, edema becomes more apparent. At this point, individuals often have significant structural heart disease and display pronounced symptoms, even at rest.
As a result, people can have edema in several stages. However, very obvious or worsening edema is more likely to happen in the later stages.
Treating edema in heart failure involves addressing the underlying cause and the edema. Medical interventions primarily focus on managing heart failure and improving fluid balance in the body. Doctors may recommend additional measures to alleviate the edema directly.
- diuretics to help the body excrete excess fluid in the urine
- angiotensin receptor neprilysin inhibitors and angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors to relax the blood vessels and help reduce the effects of heart failure
- mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists to lower blood pressure and reduce congestion
- beta-blockers to lower the heart rate and help relax the heart
In severe cases of heart failure, a person may also need implantable devices, such as a pump or defibrillator, to assist the heart’s function.
Treating edema involves measures to improve circulation and reduce fluid accumulation. These may include:
- Compression stockings: These apply pressure to the legs, increasing circulation and helping to reduce swelling.
- Exercise: Regular exercise can help improve circulation and promote blood pumping from the affected leg muscles back to the heart.
- Elevation: Elevating the legs or any swollen body part above the level of the heart can assist in maintaining sufficient blood flow and reducing edema.
The life expectancy for heart failure varies depending on the specific type of heart failure a person has, among other factors.
Despite advances in heart failure treatments, the outlook of the condition worsens over time, often leading to frequent hospital admissions and premature death.
People with newly diagnosed heart failure have a mortality rate of around 20% at 1 year and 53% at 5 years, according to some research. This rate increases significantly with age.
Edema is a common sign of heart failure. It occurs when the heart cannot pump blood adequately, leading to an increase in pressure inside the blood vessels. This causes fluid to leak into the surrounding tissues.
Edema in heart failure often affects the lower limbs and fingers, but it can also occur around the abdomen. The severity and extent of edema may indicate the progression and severity of heart failure. Treatment may involve medications, compression stockings, and movement to increase circulation.