In the movies, an actor dramatically clutches his chest or grabs his left arm and falls to the ground, and the audience recognizes instantly that he is suffering a heart attack. It is said that art imitates life, but in reality, most heart conditions do not make such an obvious entrance. Even in the case of a heart attack, pain in the chest often feels more like pressure or squeezing, and other symptoms such as dizziness and nausea may also be present. However, these signs are often missed, simply because they are not what most patients have come to expect. Here are three other symptoms, which patients may be surprised to learn can also be signs of cardiovascular trouble.
Edema as a Sign of Heart Failure
Edema is swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in the body’s tissue. Most commonly, it is observed in the lower extremities (feet, ankles, and lower legs). However, edema due to cardiovascular concerns may also occur in the abdomen or lungs.
It may be easy for swelling, particularly peripheral swelling of the legs and feet, to be dismissed as a result of medication, injury, or a high sodium intake, but the heart or veins’ inability to efficiently transport blood to and from the lower extremities is another potential cause. In conditions such as congestive heart failure and chronic venous insufficiency, edema in these areas is a common symptom.
Leg Ulcers and Poor Circulation
Skin ulcers are open sores that are slow to heal and are often the direct result of poor circulation. Commonly, they appear on the legs, where circulatory issues frequently develop in those with vascular disease. In these cases, a condition such as congestive heart failure or peripheral artery disease prevents the affected tissue from receiving an adequate amount of oxygen rich blood. In turn, the tissue begins to break down, and an ulcer develops. Without timely and proper treatment to address both the sore and the underlying cause, complications including infection, limb amputation, and even heart attack may result.
Spider or Varicose Veins and Venous Insufficiency
Varicose veins are enlarged, bulging or twisting veins that occur when weak or damaged valves prevent proper circulation, allowing blood to collect there in a condition known as venous insufficiency. Similarly, spider veins can also result from a backup of blood, but these veins are smaller and are visible as blue or red lines that may resemble tree branches or a road map. In either case, insufficient circulation can lead to additional, more serious problems such as skin ulcers or a type of blood clot known as deep vein thrombosis.
It can be easy to write off signs such as spider veins or swelling as being due to age or a separate medical condition, but possible underlying cardiovascular problems mean that these symptoms require further investigation. If you are suffering from any of the aforementioned signs, contact Cardiovascular Institute of the South, and request an appointment with one of our skilled cardiologists. By doing so, you can not only gain a better understanding of your condition, but you can also begin to take proactive steps to keep your heart health protected.