Heart Failure: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019

Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle is not able to function in a manner that can sufficiently supply the body with oxygen. Congestive heart failure is the failure of the heart muscle to maintain the circulation, leading to a backup of blood in the veins that causes swelling, particularly in the lower parts of the body. Shortness of breath is another common symptom of congestive heart failure that occurs due to fluid buildup in the lungs. Fatigue and a decreased capacity to exercise are other symptoms that commonly result from heart failure. Early symptoms and signs may not be apparent, and symptoms may develop only after the condition has progressed over time.

Causes of heart failure

Any condition that damages the function of the heart can cause heart failure. Examples include coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction (heart attack), inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis), high blood pressure (hypertension), long-standing alcohol abuse, and heart valve disease. Heart failure may also occur in some cases when the exact cause is not known.

Other heart failure symptoms and signs


Heart Disease: Symptoms, Signs, and Causes See Slideshow

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Heart Health Newsletter

By clicking "Submit," I agree to the MedicineNet Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy. I also agree to receive emails from MedicineNet and I understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet subscriptions at any time.

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