Congestive Heart Failure Symptoms

In the earliest stages of heart failure, the body tries to compensate for the decreasing blood flow by building up the heart muscle so that it actually becomes larger and pumps harder. Eventually the heart weakens and symptoms begin to appear. Congenital heart failure may have additional symptoms that depend on the side of the heart that is affected.

Left-Sided Heart Failure Symptoms

The left atrium and the left ventricle are responsible for receiving fresh, oxygenated blood from the lungs and pumping it out to your organs and tissues. If that side of the heart is weak or damaged, fluids back up into the lungs, causing the following symptoms:

  • shortness of breath, due to fluids in the lungs (pulmonary edema)
  • fatigue, due to a lack of oxygen in your blood and the heart’s inability to pump nutrient-rich blood through your body
  • coughing, as your lungs attempt to expel some of the excess fluid, which may have a pink color due to blood content.

Heart Failure -  Cyanosis - HealthTree.comRight-Sided Heart Failure Symptoms

If the right atrium and right ventricle are malfunctioning, then blood flow through the heart to the lungs is impaired. This means that oxygen-depleted blood isn’t getting replenished with oxygen and nutrients as well as it should. Fluid backs up in your veins, causing these symptoms:

  • swollen feet, ankles and legs (peripheral edema)
  • swelling of the liver and fluid in the abdominal cavity (ascites)
  • increased urination frequency, particularly at night
  • possible kidney failure due to increased congestion in the kidney circulation

If the kidneys are affected, timely treatment for right-sided heart failure is essential in order to restore proper circulation and save kidney function.

Other Signs of Congestive Heart Failure

Eventually, the heart becomes weaker as it struggles to keep pumping blood to the lungs, tissues and other organs. As the body is deprived of oxygen and nutrients, the signs of congestive heart failure become more evident.

  • increasing fatigue from any exertion, particularly climbing stairs, as the muscles start to feel the lack of oxygen
  • breathlessness as the lungs fill with fluid, even while lying down
  • cyanosis, where the skin takes on a bluish tone, particularly on the ears and nose
  • enlargement of the liver, as the congestion backs up fluids in the liver
  • weight gain from the retention of fluid
  • chest pain
  • indigestion accompanied by a decrease in appetite
  • confusion and memory lapses as your brain suffers a lack of oxygen
  • an irregular pulse, accompanied by clammy skin and swelling in the veins of the neck.

Report any new symptoms or changes in existing symptoms to your physician.