Advertisement

What causes fluid overload in heart failure?

Dr. Jennifer H. Haythe, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

In heart failure, the heart’s pumping ability is diminished and the force of blood flow is reduced. The kidneys incorrectly perceive this as dehydration and therefore increase fluid and salt retention. This excess volume further impairs the failing heart and this vicious cycle leads to the body becoming overloaded with fluid.

Heart failure most frequently causes fluid overload. When the heart weakens, blood flow returning to the heart slows down, backing up in the veins and causing fluid to build up in the tissues. The kidneys also are affected by heart failure, which results in a less efficient elimination of sodium and water. Fluid congestion increases because of the retained water.

Fluid overload, which can cause swollen legs, can happen with heart failure and with kidney disease.

Kidney disease can also cause fluid overload. Besides eliminating the body's waste products, the kidneys also play a role in balancing the body's sodium and fluid. When the balance is not maintained as a result of impaired kidneys, the sodium and water accumulate, producing fluid overload.

When patients have too much salt in their diet, limiting the salt in their diet may help. Or, oral medicines, such as diuretics or water pills, may be prescribed to reduce fluid overload. However, many people with fluid overload must be hospitalized because these measures stop working and they retain too much fluid.

Dr. Poorna L. Nalabothu, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Fluid overload is a hallmark of heart failure. In this video, Poorna Nalabothu, MD, with Heart Center at St. Mark's, explains how heart failure impacts fluid retention and overload.

Continue Learning about Heart Failure

Ask the Experts: Heart Failure Cause
Ask the Experts: Heart Failure Cause
Heart failure doesn’t mean your heart stopped working altogether, but it isn’t working properly. Treatment options are available. In this video, Dr. O...
Read More
Who is most at risk for heart failure with preserved ejection fraction?
Dr. Boris Arbit, MDDr. Boris Arbit, MD
Those most at risk for heart failure with preserved ejection fraction include people with hypertensi...
More Answers
5 Unexpected Signs of Heart Failure
5 Unexpected Signs of Heart Failure5 Unexpected Signs of Heart Failure5 Unexpected Signs of Heart Failure5 Unexpected Signs of Heart Failure
These could be clues that your heart isn’t pumping efficiently.
Start Slideshow
How Heart Disease Treatment Has Evolved
How Heart Disease Treatment Has Evolved

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.