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Signs and symptoms

Heart diseases may be acute or chronic and they may be temporary, relatively stable, or progressive. They may cause a variety of signs and symptoms that frequently change and/or worsen over time. Patients with chronic heart diseases can have episodes with acutely worsened symptoms; these may resolve (either on their own or with treatment), persist, or even become life threatening. Patients with early heart disease may experience few or vague symptoms - such as fatigue, shortness of breath (with or without effort), dizziness and/or nausea -but these symptoms do not indicate what type of heart disease they have. These symptoms may also be seen with a variety of other conditions. Other signs and complications that may arise from heart disease include:

  • Arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat)
  • Dilation (where one or more of the heart chambers is stretched, causing their interiors to become larger because of increased pressure)
  • Embolism (where a blood vessel is blocked by material that has travelled from a distant body site - the material is typically a blood clot, but can be fat, air or even amniotic fluid)
  • Shortness of breath (due to the body's inability to keep up with increased demands for oxygen during physical activity)
  • Heart failure (a clinical syndrome that results from any structural or functional disorder that impairs the ability of the ventricles to fill with or eject blood)
  • Acute myocardial Infarction (AMI) (death of muscle cells due to a blockage that is impeding blood flow in the coronary arteries)
  • Insufficient contraction (not emptying or filling completely)
  • Pain, frequently due to ischaemia (where reduced blood flow results in a lack of oxygen; this is called angina if it affects the heart or intermittent claudication if it occurs in the legs)
  • Regurgitation (a backflow of blood due to faulty heart valves) causing increased pressure on the blood vessels of the lungs and liver
  • Stenosis (a narrowing of the openings of the heart also due to faulty valves)
  • Tissue death (permanent loss of heart tissue due to a lack of oxygen, leading to scarring)
  • Ventricular hypertrophy (increased thickness of the walls of the heart, causing a decrease in the size of the chambers and a decrease in the flexibility of the heart)

Heart diseases may be due to:

Last Review Date: September 4, 2017