Patient Referral

Congestive Heart Failure: Symptoms & Causes

symptoms of congestive heart failure

Congestive heart failure is a chronic progressive condition, sometimes called simply “heart failure” or “CHF.” This condition causes fluid to build up around the heart, limiting its ability to pump efficiently. When a person’s heart ventricles don’t pump enough blood volume to the body, blood and other fluids back up inside their lungs, liver, abdomen, and lower extremities.

Congestive Heart Failure Causes

Congestive heart failure can be caused by a variety of cardiovascular conditions that damage the heart, including:

Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease occurs when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, causing them to become narrow. This limits blood flow to the heart which starves it of oxygen and nutrients.


This is a disease of the heart muscle that causes it to become enlarged, thick, or rigid. This can be caused by infections or alcohol or drug abuse.

Heart Attack

When a coronary artery becomes blocked, it stops the flow of blood to the heart muscle. This damages the heart, resulting in scar tissue that does not function properly.

Other Conditions

Congestive heart failure can also be caused by health conditions that strain the heart including high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease, kidney disease, or congenital heart defects.

Congestive Heart Failure Symptoms

The symptoms of congestive heart failure can range from mild to severe. It the early stages, most individuals will not notice any changes. As the condition progresses, more symptoms will become evident.

Congestive heart failure symptoms include:

  • Dyspnea: shortness of breath at night after exertion or lying down
  • Edema: swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Increased need to urinate at night
  • Persistent cough – can be a dry cough or with white or pink-tinged phlegm
  • Ascites: swelling of the abdomen
  • Weight gain from fluid retention
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Chest pain

Long-Term Prognosis

While there is no cure for congestive heart failure, the condition may improve with treatment. In the earlier stages of congestive heart failure, Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care can partner with a person’s physician to provide palliative care support to managing fluid retention and other symptoms. In late stage congestive heart failure, our hospice care team can assist in managing pain and shortness of breath, enabling patients to remain at home with their families.

To learn more about hospice eligibility or to discuss how Crossroads supports patients with congestive heart failure, please call 1-888-564-3405.


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