Symptoms and Signs of Heart Failure Early Signs and Symptoms

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 2/16/2022

Doctor's Notes on Heart Failure Early Signs and Symptoms

Heart failure is a condition where the heart muscle is unable to adequately pump blood through the body; blood backs up and puts pressure on the blood vessels that cause water to leak out into the tissues of the body and cause signs and symptoms. Heart failure can occur in the right ventricle or the left ventricle of the heart. The following are 8 signs or symptoms of right heart failure and left heart failure:

  • Right heart failure symptoms include
    • weight gain that can occur gradually or quickly,
    • leg swelling and/or peripheral edema and
    • increased urination.
  • Left heart failure symptoms include
    • shortness of breath on exertion, 
    • fatigue and exercise intolerance,
    • shortness of breath when lying flat (orthopnea),
    • paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea (waking at night with the feeling of suffocating and/or shortness of breath) and
    • plural effusions (accumulation in the lungs causing increasing severity of shortness of breath).

The causes of all of the symptoms and signs of heart failure are due to the heart muscle’s inability to adequately pump blood into the arteries that results in an accumulation of fluid within body tissues.

What are the treatments for early heart failure?

The treatments for early heart failure are mainly medications that lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, decrease fluids and improve heart functions. The general medical categories with some examples include:

Many patients with early heart failure take more than one or two combinations of the drugs listed above, usually as out patients, prescribed by their doctors. These drugs plus other procedures, including surgery, are used for chronic and/or severe heart failure.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.