Heart Failure: Less Common Symptoms - Topic Overview
While there are certain symptoms that people with
heart failure experience more commonly, there are many
other symptoms that heart failure can cause. These symptoms are typically less
common because they often result from more severe heart failure, when the body
can no longer compensate properly for the failing heart.
The first table summarizes congestive symptoms that result from fluid
leaking into the lungs and the rest of the body. The second table summarizes
symptoms that occur because the heart can no longer pump enough blood to meet
the body's needs, which causes poor blood circulation. After the tables is a
more detailed explanation of each symptom.
Tell your doctor if you experience
any of these less common symptoms.
Symptoms of congestion
What causes it?
- Most commonly a dry cough (without
- More severe heart failure can cause a wet cough—coughing up
pink, frothy fluid.
- Some people experience wheezing, similar to
that caused by asthma.
|Backup of blood and fluid into the lungs|
|Abdominal bloating||Abdominal bloating can result from fluid backup in
- Liver, which makes your abdomen feel
swollen or tender.
- Stomach, which causes decreased appetite,
bloating, and nausea.
- Intestines, which causes decreased appetite
and poor absorption of medicines and food.
Abdominal cavity ascites, tenderness, or fever can indicate
an infection in this fluid buildup.
|Backup of blood and fluid into different parts of
the gastrointestinal system or abdominal cavity|
Symptoms of poor blood circulation
What happens? What does it feel like?
Results from poor circulation to the:
|Less frequent urination|
- During the day, you may urinate less
often than you normally do (because of poor blood flow to the
- At night, you may urinate more often than you normally do
(because fluid in the legs reenters the circulation when you lie down).
|Feeling cold in arms, legs, hands, and feet|
- May feel cold due to poor
|Arms, legs, hands, and feet|
- Sensation of dizziness or mild
- Inability to think
- Problems with memory or ability to understand
|Fainting or passing out|
- Losing consciousness suddenly (blacking
- Inability to achieve an erection
How does heart failure make the arms, legs, hands, and feet feel cold? People with heart failure may find that they often feel
cold in their arms, hands, feet, and legs (the extremities). This happens
because the body is circulating most of the available blood to the brain and
other vital organs to compensate for the failing heart's inability to pump
enough blood to the entire body. As a result, the extremities get less blood,
and without blood to warm them, these parts of your body feel cold.