Heart failure often comes on gradually with increasing shortness of breath, especially with activity and exertion. The shortness of breath may become worse when lying supine. Some people may awaken feeling short of breath with improvement after they get up to “get some air”.
Swelling with excess fluid (edema) in the legs may become gradually worse and may extend to swelling in the abdomen. Weakness, nausea, and other feelings may be present. Cough, rapid breathing, and bluish discoloration (cyanosis) of the hands, feet and lips may happen.
Because there are many causes of heart failure, your physician will run tests such as a chest X-ray, electrocardiogram, blood tests, and other studies to determine the cause. Some underlying causes are specifically treatable. Some causes of heart failure cannot be treated but may respond to treatments such as diuretics to remove excess fluid and other medications which improve the effectiveness of the pumping action of the heart. Some causes of heart failure may be corrected or improved with surgery. If other treatments fail, then treatment with heart transplantation may be an option.