Heart disease and Edema

by Michelle Moran
Heart disease and Edema

Heart diseases are the number one health problem in the United States, and in the world. According to the website of Centers for disease control and prevention, about 647,000 Americans every year die from heart diseases. With those numbers, heart disease is the reason for every 4th death in America. Only in the United States every 37 seconds a person dies from heart disease, also according to the website.

Luckily, many heart problems can be treated and balanced with the right medication and a certain lifestyle, but for that to happen, we must know about it in time. There are many symptoms of heart disease, and we should be aware of some of them.  

Today we will be talking about the connection of heart disease and edema and answer the question of whether edema could be a sign of heart disease. 

But first, what is edema?

Edema is swelling that is caused by excessive fluid in tissue. This excessive fluid comes from small blood vessels that leak into it. The fluid builds up with time which causes swelling.

Heart disease and Edema

There are many types of edema, including lymphedema that comes from damaged lymph nodes after injuries or diseases, and pedal edema that occurs in feet and legs (most common in pregnancy), or pulmonary edema that is mostly caused by heart failure. 

Edema is a body’s normal response to injuries or skin infections, but it can also be a sign of other problems such as circulatory system problems, kidney disease, and cardiovascular problems.

Can heart disease cause leg swelling?

Edema in legs is one of the most common types of edema, so is swelling in legs related to heart disease?

Unfortunately, yes. Leg swelling and heart disease have a correlation. Edema in your lower limbs or, leg edema, can be a symptom of heart disease. When the heart is not working properly, it is also not pumping the blood properly. The blood then collects in the legs making the fluid build up in the tissue and causing swelling.

However, when heart failure is the reason for leg edema, you are most likely to experience other symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, and tiredness. More common causes of leg edema are venous insufficiency, pregnancy, salt retention, or side effect from certain medicaments.

Heart disease and Edema

Heart failure, leg swelling, and shortness of breath can be a serious problem, so it is extremely important to recognize the red flags.

How does edema occur in heart failure?

So, leg swelling can be a symptom of heart problems, but why does heart failure cause edema?

Edema occurs in heart failure when the heart is experiencing functioning problems, which directly affects circulation. Weak heart and improper and slow circulation can lead to blood building up in the veins, legs, and limb and having a problem with going back to the heat.

Edema due to heart failure develops when the fluid collects in the tissue and causes swelling. The most common edema related to heart failure, however, is not leg edema, but pulmonary edema.

Pulmonary edema is not quite common, but it is life-threatening. Pulmonary edema develops when the blood collects in the veins that pass through the lungs. The fluid then builds up in the air sacks of the lungs causing breathing problems.  

Is edema a symptom of heart disease?

If followed with shortness of breath and fatigue, edema is a common sign of heart failure. Edema due to heart problems is mostly pulmonary edema, but it can also develop leg and limb swelling.

Normally, edema is a body’s normal response to injuries or skin infections and is usually nothing to worry about. However, it can be a sign of kidney disease, liver or heart failure, and circulatory problems.

Pitting edema can be a red flag and indicate a more serious health problem, such as blood clots or lung disease. Pitting edema is swelling that leaves a print in the skin after applied pressure of a finger or a seam on the socks. 

How does congestive heart failure cause edema?

When referring to heart failure, it is commonly referred to the congestive heart failure or CHF. 

Heart disease and Edema

Congestive heart failure is a chronic disease that causes heart muscles to weaken leading to heart-pumping insufficient blood to other organs. When heart failure happens, fluid builds up around the heart affecting the heart muscles pumping properly. 

Edema due to congestive heart failure is most commonly pulmonary edema, but blood an also build up in your legs, arms, or stomach. This is why edema can be a sign of CHF.

Can heart disease cause pulmonary edema?

Left-sided heart disease is the most common cause of pulmonary edema. When the heart is not strong enough or does not pump enough blood to meet the body's needs, it can collect in the veins that are transferring the blood through the lungs. Pulmonary edema develops with fluid retention in the lungs’ air sacks due to improper circulatory flow. 

Even though the most common cause of pulmonary edema is heart diseases and congestive cardiac failure, this type of edema can also develop from other causes such as heavy medication side effect, serious trauma or injury, exposure to high altitude and other. 

Does right-sided heart failure cause pulmonary edema?

Pulmonary edema is commonly caused by left-sided heart failure, while right-sided heart failure causes leg edema. 

Congestive heart failure can be right-sided heart failure or left-sided heart failure, or both. Symptoms are not the same for the two. Right-sided heart failure is the most common cause of edema in legs, ankles, and limbs, while left-sided heart failure is the most common cause of pulmonary edema. 

If you are experiencing edema in legs, ankles, and lower limbs, compression garments can help you ease the swelling and help increase circulation. Whether this condition is brought to you by right-sided heart failure or another problem, compression socks and garments can help you with the discomfort. 

For more information about compression therapy in legs, read our blog post Pregnancy and edema, and be sure to visit our online catalog to find more information about compression garments.


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