Edema with heart failure, the causes of symptoms and treatment methods

What is “heart swelling” and when they occur

There are many diseases of the heart. This is coronary heart disease, in which the part of the heart muscle is not supplied enough blood, and heart defects, when one of the holes – between the atrium and the ventricle, or between the ventricle and the vessels coming from it – becomes either too narrow, or, on the contrary, expands.

All of them are united by the fact that in the absence of adequate treatment, they lead to overload of the heart muscle, myocardium. This is called heart failure. When it develops gradually, and affects the right ventricle, swelling forms. They are called so – edema with right ventricular heart failure.

“Simple,” with uncomplicated heart diseases, fluid in the skin will not accumulate. This will happen only when the right ventricle, working with a large circle of blood circulation, cannot pump a standard volume of blood and will “leave” it in the vessels.

The main reason for this condition is decompensation of heart failure, but it can also be caused by:

  • self-medication;
  • salt abuse;
  • alcohol intake;
  • violation of the diet;
  • inadequately selected treatment;
  • joining a kidney or endocrine disease.

Home Treatment

Leg edema associated with heart failure in the early stages of their development can be cured at home. This treatment method should be carefully discussed with the attending physician and carried out only under its strict control. Treatment at home without the use of medicines has little to do with treatment with folk remedies.

The first and most important thing is right – during sleep, you need to take the correct posture, which will help reduce swelling on the legs. It is necessary to keep the legs at a certain angle in a raised position. To do this, you can put special rollers or pillows under the knees.

The second rule is drinking enough water per day. Most often, doctors limit patients with cardiac edema to 1 liter of water per day. It is necessary and limit the use of salt. Experts recommend not consuming no more than half a teaspoon of salt per day. Ideally, home-made food is best not to salt at all. All the elements and minerals necessary for the body are contained in food. Cheese, fish, legumes, dairy products, etc. are rich in sodium.

It will help to solve problems with puffiness and therapeutic massage. He is trained by specialists. Active circular movements need to work out the problem areas on the legs.

Finally, baths and compresses are a great way to reduce puffiness at home. The pharmacy sells a lot of tools that help get rid of cardiac edema. But before buying them, consult with a cardiologist.

Causes of Cardiac Edema

Edema, like heart (cardiac) failure, does not occur in one day. Initially, as a result of the disease, the right ventricle is overloaded. The increased pressure in it is gradually communicated to the right atrium, into which 2 hollow veins flow, collecting venous blood from the entire body. The muscle layer is not developed in the veins, and they cannot push the right amount of blood into the right atrium, so stagnation occurs in them.

When the fluid stagnates in the venous vessels, this means that less blood returns to the heart. It throws out an insufficient amount of this important fluid into the aorta, and the tissues receiving nutrition through arteries extending from the aorta lack oxygen and nutrients. In response to this, the body activates a protective mechanism:

  • increases the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, because of which adrenaline is released into the bloodstream, which constricts blood vessels and speeds up the heartbeat;
  • activates the release of vasopressin by the hypothalamus, which also reduces the diameter of the arteries and reduces the amount of urine excreted;
  • with narrowed vessels and a smaller amount of blood entering the kidneys in the body, even more fluid is retained;
  • due to insufficient oxygen supply to tissues, vessels are instructed to increase the gaps between the cells;
  • as a result, even more fluid is released into the tissue;
  • if at the previous stage the situation is not corrected, then the liver suffers from hypoxia. It produces less protein, which, among other things, retained fluid in the vessels. And to the hydrostatic edema that was earlier, protein-free edema also joins.

The described mechanism begins with the right ventricle only when:

  • chronic respiratory diseases leading to respiratory failure: emphysema, chronic bronchitis, pneumosclerosis;
  • insufficiency (i.e. poor closure) of the tricuspid valve between the right atrium and ventricle;
  • insufficiency of valves of the pulmonary artery, where the right ventricle pushes blood;
  • pericarditis with the appearance of fluid between the heart and the heart bag (the right ventricle suffers more, since the left ventricle is stronger and harder to compress).

Other causes of cardiac edema are those that cause first left ventricular failure, and then, as a result of increased pressure in the pulmonary circulation, and right ventricular failure. It:

  • cardiosclerosis – the appearance of scar tissue in the heart instead of contracting muscle cells. This usually occurs after myocardial infarction;
  • hypertension: the heart can overcome the increased pressure in the arteries only by pushing blood more strongly into them, as a result, the left ventricle initially increases its muscle mass, and then, on the contrary, becomes flabby;
  • cardiomyopathies – a change in the structure of the myocardium that occurs for unknown reasons;
  • myocardial dystrophy – a group of diseases in which metabolic processes are disturbed in the heart muscle, and its function worsens;
  • mitral stenosis and insufficiency, mitral valve prolapse – heart defects in which the valve between the left atrium and the left ventricle suffers;
  • many congenital heart defects;
  • long-existing arrhythmias;
  • inflammatory heart diseases: endocarditis, myocarditis;
  • amyloidosis of the heart.

Most of these diseases lead to cardiac failure in older people, so cardiac edema (edema) is more likely to occur in the elderly. The more pronounced the failure of the heart muscle, the more common edema.

Proper balanced nutrition is an excellent way to deal with many ailments. Heart failure and leg swelling are no exception. That is why, to eliminate these problems, doctors prescribe a therapeutic diet for patients. It is absolutely not associated with starvation or severe restrictions. The diet also allows you to get rid of the use of food “garbage”, to strengthen the general well-being of the patient.

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It is worth restricting the use of highly salty, fatty and spicy foods. Remove from your diet smoked meats, fast food, convenience foods. Limit the use of flour products, sweets, hot spices, fatty sauces.

There is a special list of products that must be eaten in case of heart failure and puffiness against this background. These products enhance the excretion of excess water from the body and contribute to normal urination. These include:

  • Apples.
  • Carrots and pumpkins, juices and dishes from them.
  • Buckwheat.
  • Cabbage, salads from it.
  • Fresh cucumbers.
  • Teas with medicinal properties from fresh herbs, berries, etc.

In order to maintain an optimal level of potassium, sodium, magnesium, and other substances necessary for normal functioning of the body, when water is actively removed from the body, baked or boiled potatoes, dried fruits, and nuts should be eaten.

If you follow this diet, you will not only be able to reduce swelling on your legs, but also lose weight, remove toxins from the body, improve your well-being and skin condition, solve metabolic and digestive problems, etc.

How to identify heart swelling

It is not difficult to determine if there is swelling or not. It is only necessary to press the soft tissues to the underlying bone and observe the resulting fossa: with edema, it does not disappear for 30 seconds or longer.

Symptoms of cardiac edema are determined first on the legs. For this, it is necessary that the person is lying, and his lower limbs should not be raised above the level of the body. Next, a finger is pressed on the lower third of the leg from its inner side, where the bone is not covered with a thick layer of fiber. Estimate the time of expansion of this particular fossa, gently conducting over this area, starting from non-depressed skin.

Explicit edema can be of lymphatic origin (lymphedema), occur with varicose veins, renal failure, and as a result of insufficient production / intake of proteins.

Edema of cardiac origin differ:

  • preferential location on the legs and (slightly less) feet. With decompensated cardiac insufficiency, they “rise” from bottom to top, reaching the abdomen, hitting the hands, but they reach the face in extreme cases;
  • symmetry;
  • gradual development;
  • density;
  • painlessness;
  • stillness;
  • a bluish tinge of cold skin in the area of ​​edema;
  • increase in the evening and a decrease in the degree in the morning.

In addition, the following symptoms indicate the cardiac origin of edema:

  • increased breathing at first with physical exertion, and then, with heart failure 2A or higher, at rest;
  • arrhythmia – constant or periodic;
  • a feeling of pressure, compression, burning behind the sternum;
  • fatigue;
  • blue lips, nasolabial triangle, fingers and toes;
  • heaviness in the right hypochondrium;
  • headaches, dizziness with unchanged vessels of the head and neck and the exception of a neurologist of diseases of the nervous system.
First appearanceOn the legsOn the face
When are most noticeablein the eveningIn the mornings, the face is swollen
Color of the skinWith a bluish tintPale
Skin temperature swellingColder than edematous skinThe same temperature as skin without swelling
DensityTight to the touchSoft
Development rateGrow graduallyAppeared in a matter of days


Drug treatment is a more serious measure of getting rid of cardiac edema. It allows you to get rid of precisely the cause of their occurrence – heart failure.

There are special categories of drugs that can cure this disease. The first category is diuretics. Diuretics relieve excess fluid in the body. A fairly common drug in this category is Furosemide.

The next category of drugs is glycosides. They affect the functioning of the cardiovascular system. Glycosides accelerate to the optimal value the speed of contractions of the heart muscle. These drugs include digitoxin.

The third category of drugs is antiarrhythmic drugs. These funds positively affect the general condition of the human cardiovascular system.

Finally, the last category of drugs that can solve the problem with cardiac swelling of the legs is nitrates. They can significantly reduce the load on the heart muscle.

Medication with the wrong approach can very much harm the patient’s body. Many drugs can have a negative effect on the liver, digestion. That is why, before using the funds listed above, you should definitely consult with a specialist. The attending physician will prescribe an effective course of treatment taking into account all the characteristics of the body.


So that the doctor can tell how to remove cardiac edema, he needs to determine:

  1. that excess fluid in the tissues precisely accumulates due to cardiac failure;
  2. what kind of heart disease caused the failure.

Diagnosis begins with examination, listening to heart sounds and stagnant, characteristic only for cardiac pathology, wheezing in the lower parts of the lungs. Next, the doctor will need to see the ECG and ultrasound data of the patient’s heart. Scintigraphy, cardiac MRI, coronarography (a contrast study of the vessels that feed the heart), as well as Holter (around-the-clock) pressure and / or ECG monitoring may also be needed.

Also, for the treatment of cardiac edema, the doctor needs to find out how pronounced they are: it is only swelling of the extremities, or there is fluid sweating in the pleural, abdominal cavity, pericardium. An abdominal ultrasound scan, chest x-ray is performed for diagnosis.

Hospital treatment

If the patient’s condition worsens sharply, there is a negative dynamics in the development of heart failure, swelling of the legs has reached the maximum permissible limits, then inpatient treatment is prescribed. Around the clock, the health of the patient will be monitored by specialists. They prescribe and conduct an effective course of treatment.

Inpatient treatment may include the use of medicines, as well as various recreational procedures. An exception are droppers. In the presence of severe edema of the limbs, they are contraindicated. The introduction of intravenous fluids can greatly worsen the situation. The size of edema increases, the work of the heart and cardiovascular system worsens. Droppers can lead to the development of more serious diseases. These include pulmonary edema. This can lead to death of the patient.

Intravenous administration of drugs is a fairly effective method of treating various diseases. But it is possible with a rapid decrease in the volume of puffiness or their complete elimination. Before prescribing droppers, the doctor must evaluate the patient’s health, check for compliance of his indicators with the norms of fluid content in the lungs.

Actively prescribed to patients with heart failure, drugs belonging to the group of diuretics. In a hospital, Furosemide is very common. It perfectly accelerates the diuretic processes in the body and allows you to get rid of excess fluid.

But before prescribing this drug, it is necessary to monitor the patient’s blood pressure level. With its reduced value, the use of Furosemide is not recommended. If the patient’s condition is critical and he needs the use of diuretics, blood pressure is reduced by artificial methods.

Folk methods

Alternative methods are very common among patients with heart failure. Many simply do not want to spend money on the purchase of rather expensive medicines and turn to specialists. But it is worth noting that not all cardiologists recognize traditional medicine as truly effective and efficient in the fight against disorders in the cardiovascular system.

One of the most effective folk remedies is natural green tea. Its regular use is able to remove toxins and antioxidants from the body, rid it of excess fluid.

An excellent diuretic and diuretic effect is fresh cranberry juice. Use it regularly. But do not forget about controlling the amount of fluid consumed daily. Excessive use of it can increase the size of the swelling of the limbs.

An effective tool in the fight against edema is apple cider vinegar. It must be diluted with water in a ratio of 1: 2 and consumed one spoon a day. But excessive consumption or the wrong ratio of these two components can lead to serious consequences. Pure vinegar can cause burns to the larynx and esophagus. Therefore, when using this tool, you need to be very careful and observe all proportions.

Nettle infusion will help eliminate swelling of the extremities and improve heart function. The method of its preparation is very similar to the method of preparing ordinary tea. Pre-dried nettle is soaked in hot water. This infusion can be consumed several times a day.

Infusions of birch buds, cherries, dill and parsley also help in the treatment of this problem. Dill is also an excellent natural diuretic. It is recommended to use in its usual form or to use when cooking dishes.

Relieve swelling of the extremities and therapeutic baths. Baths can be done using both pharmacy and natural remedies. The latter include mint, spruce needles, chamomile, etc. It is worth avoiding funds with a warming effect. To immerse in a medical solution is not only the feet, but also the lower legs. The optimum temperature of such baths should exceed the optimal temperature of the human body. The duration of the procedure should be at least ten minutes.

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No less effective are compresses. They help reduce pain and reduce the size of swelling in the legs. A common tool for applying compresses is raw potatoes, grated on a fine grater. Put the finished mass on the problem place, cover it with a bag or bandage and insulate.

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Tatyana Jakowenko

Editor-in-chief of the Detonic online magazine, cardiologist Yakovenko-Plahotnaya Tatyana. Author of more than 950 scientific articles, including in foreign medical journals. He has been working as a cardiologist in a clinical hospital for over 12 years. He owns modern methods of diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases and implements them in his professional activities. For example, it uses methods of resuscitation of the heart, decoding of ECG, functional tests, cyclic ergometry and knows echocardiography very well.

For 10 years, she has been an active participant in numerous medical symposia and workshops for doctors - families, therapists and cardiologists. He has many publications on a healthy lifestyle, diagnosis and treatment of heart and vascular diseases.

He regularly monitors new publications of European and American cardiology journals, writes scientific articles, prepares reports at scientific conferences and participates in European cardiology congresses.