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Heart Failure Symptoms - Topic Overview

Swelling in ankles or feet continued...

The medical term for this swelling in the legs is pedal edema—"pedal" refers to the feet and "edema" refers to the buildup of excess fluid. Heart failure often causes what doctors call "pitting edema," meaning that applying pressure to the swollen skin leaves an indentation in the skin. Doctors often test for edema by pressing their thumb to the skin and seeing whether it leaves an impression. You may see this yourself if you take off your shoes and socks and find that your socks have left an impression in the skin of your ankles and feet.

You may notice more severe swelling if you have been eating too much salt, which causes your body to retain fluid. Elevating your feet or wearing supportive stockings can help relieve the swelling.

Urinating more often

In the earlier stages of heart failure, some people need to urinate more frequently during the night than during the day. This happens because during the day, fluid and blood can pool in your legs while you are standing, resulting in less blood in the circulation and, as a result, less blood flow to the kidneys.

At night when you lie down, blood and fluid in your legs reenter the circulation and therefore increase the blood flow to your kidneys and the amount of urine produced.

If your heart failure gets worse, your kidneys receive less and less blood, both during the day and at night. As a result, the kidneys produce less urine. If you are urinating infrequently or not at all, tell your doctor right away because it may mean that the amount of blood your heart is pumping is critically low.

Sudden weight gain

Weight gain may be the first noticeable sign that you have developed heart failure or that your heart failure is getting worse. The amount of weight gained varies greatly among people with heart failure, and it reflects the amount of sodium and water the body has retained.

A sudden weight gain may mean that excess fluid is building up in your body because your heart failure is getting worse. It is a symptom of sudden heart failure.

Your doctor will probably ask you to weigh yourself every day. Know when to call your doctor if you suddenly gain weight.

Your doctor likely will work with you to manage changes in weight caused by fluid retention. For example, if you have a weight increase of 2 lb (0.91 kg), your doctor may recommend taking an additional diuretic that day.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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