Congestive heart failure is a severe condition that requires treatment from a doctor. Congestive heart failure warning signs and symptoms include difficulty breathing, weight gain, swelling, and tiredness.

Heart failure causes the heart to become less able to move blood around the body. The heart increasingly receives more blood than it can pump out, which can cause congestion. The heart tries to compensate by beating faster and expanding in size.

However, these effects mean that the heart can no longer pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the organs. This affects the organs’ functioning and causes a range of symptoms.

This article will discuss the signs and symptoms of heart failure, as well as the condition’s causes, risk factors, and complications.

A person with their hands on their chest near their heart. Signs of congestive heart failure can include chest pain and an irregular heartbeat.Share on Pinterest
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Shortness of breath, or dyspnea, is one of the most common symptoms of heart failure. When experiencing shortness of breath, people find breathing uncomfortable or insufficient.

This can result from blood building up in the veins that return blood from the lungs to the heart, causing fluid to leak into the lungs.

Some people may experience other symptoms as a result of shortness of breath, such as:

People may experience shortness of breath during activity, while at rest, or while sleeping. Some factors, such as intense physical activity, could worsen or trigger shortness of breath.

Some people may experience sudden breathlessness, which will pass. In other cases, someone may feel persistent breathlessness, with the symptoms present most of the time.

Heart failure can cause someone to cough or wheeze. The coughing and wheezing are typically due to the same fluid buildup that causes shortness of breath.

These symptoms can range from mild to severe. In severe cases, someone may cough up blood or white mucus.

The cough may sound wet as a result of fluid building up and leaking into the lungs. There are many types of coughs, which can indicate conditions other than heart failure. For example, a dry cough could be due to asthma.

Learn more about congestive heart failure and coughing.

Heart failure can also cause chest pain or discomfort, which doctors refer to as angina. The chest pain or pressure may be due to breathing difficulties from the fluid buildup in the lungs.

This occurs when the heart does not receive enough oxygen-rich blood and causes pressure or tightening in the chest.

The pain can spread to other areas, such as the neck and jaw. Some people experience temporary and sudden pain, while others experience repeated episodes.

Swelling around the body, or edema, is another possible symptom of heart failure.

Edema can occur because blood flowing out of the heart slows down in people with heart failure. This means that veins become congested and fluid can build up in body tissues.

The kidneys become less effective at removing sodium and water from the body, which also contributes to fluid buildup.

This can cause swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, or stomach, as well as general weight gain.

Learn more about whether heart failure can cause swollen feet.

People with heart failure may experience heart palpitations, or arrhythmias. These can feel like the heart is beating louder, faster, or in a different rhythm than usual.

Heart palpitations occur when the heart reacts to the inability to pump blood around the body effectively. This can be due to the heart beating faster or growing in size and strength to compensate for the condition.

Learn more about arrhythmias.

Heart failure may cause people to feel unusually tired or weak when performing daily activities such as climbing stairs.

As heart failure worsens, the heart cannot pump enough oxygen-rich blood around the body. The body compensates for the insufficient blood supply by diverting blood to the heart and brain from the limbs and less critical organs.

The diversion of blood to the heart and brain causes people to feel weak, particularly in the arms and legs.

Learn more about the causes of fatigue.

Heart failure can also cause a lack of appetite and feelings of nausea. Nausea is an uneasy or discomforting feeling in the stomach that sometimes leads to vomiting. It can occur regardless of whether someone is eating.

People with heart failure can experience nausea or loss of appetite due to the lack of blood flowing to the digestive system and liver. The lack of oxygen can cause congestion in these systems and make someone feel full or nauseated.

Learn more about heart failure and its symptoms.

The most common cause of heart failure is coronary artery disease, which occurs when plaque builds up on the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. The plaque buildup causes the arteries to narrow, restricting blood flow to the heart.

Other possible causes of heart failure include conditions that can damage the heart muscles, such as:

Habits such as the following can also increase the risk of heart failure:

Heart failure is a serious condition and can cause complications if a person does not receive early and effective treatment. The possible complications include:

  • irregular heart rhythm
  • blood clots
  • liver or kidney damage or failure
  • muscle loss
  • pulmonary edema, or fluid buildup in the lungs
  • severe breathing problems

Anyone who experiences symptoms of heart failure should consult a healthcare professional as soon as possible. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, swelling around the body, and heart palpitations.

Early detection and treatment are essential indicators of a person’s outlook and disease progression.

Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump blood around the body effectively. It causes symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling. Heart failure is typically the result of coronary artery disease.

Anyone with symptoms of heart failure should contact a healthcare professional as soon as possible. The condition is serious and requires medical attention to avoid complications.