Signs and Symptoms
Heart diseases may be have a rapid onset (acute) or develop over time (chronic). They may be transient, relatively stable, or progressive. They may cause a variety of signs and symptoms that frequently change and/or worsen over time.
Chronic heart diseases can have episodes with acutely worsened symptoms; these may resolve on their own or with treatment, persist, or become life-threatening.
People with early heart disease may experience few or vague symptoms such as:
- Shortness of breath
However, these symptoms do not indicate the particular type of heart disease present. These symptoms may also be seen with a variety of other conditions.
As the disease progresses, signs and symptoms may worsen and include additional ones such as:
- Swelling of feet, legs and/or abdomen
- Irregular heart beat or changes in the strength of heart contractions (arrhythmia)
- Chest pain, discomfort or pressure
- Referred pain that is felt in the left shoulder, arm, back, or jaw
- Dilation—stretching of one or more of the heart chambers, causing their interiors to become larger because of increased pressure
- Inability to keep up with increased demands for oxygen and clearance of waste products, such as during physical activity
- Insufficient contraction—chambers of the heart do not empty or fill completely as the heart pumps blood
- Ventricular hypertrophy—increased thickness of the walls of the heart, causing a decrease in the size of the chambers and also a decrease in the flexibility of the heart