a woman tilts her head back and sees stars

Community Shares: Your Strangest Heart Failure Symptoms

Last updated: March 2021

Heart failure affects everyone in slightly different ways. Some days may be better than others, but it is important to know that you are not alone in dealing with the impact of your diagnosis.

To find out more about the different ways this diagnosis affects people, we reached out to followers of our Facebook page and asked community members: “What has been everyone’s strangest heart failure symptom?”

More than 250 community members answered, each with their own unique list of symptoms. Here is what was shared.

Fluid build-up

Weight gain is one of the most common signs of heart failure. The weight gain is not fat, but rather fluid that is building up in the body. This is also known as edema, and it tends to happen in the stomach or in the feet. A doctor will often prescribe a diuretic to help flush all the extra fluid.

“My stomach swells like I am pregnant when I am retaining fluid. My legs never swell. So weird! Even after losing 35 pounds, this still happens.”

“My abdomen is full of fluid causing pain and discomfort.”

“Stomach bloating. What causes it?”

Pain between the shoulder blades

People tend to associate heart attacks with pain in the chest, but a small percentage of people feel pain between their shoulder blades. For some, that pain can be intense. This symptom does tend to be more common among women with heart failure.

“Horrible back pain between shoulders.” 

“The painful, painful pain all of a sudden, in the center of my back, it felt like someone hit me with a sledgehammer.”

“Pain in the back between shoulders.”

Inability to lie on your side

It makes sense to feel your heart racing or other symptoms when lying on your left side. That is because this places your heart in a position where it is lower than the rest of your body. In other words, it is pumping blood “uphill,” which is harder for it to do. For some people, the heart is also working harder when the body is lying flat because it does not have gravity to help it work.

“If I lay on my left side my heart speeds up.”

“If I lay on my left side I break out in a sweat.”

Vision problems

People with heart failure are much more likely to have eye problems. One of the most common vision problems for someone with heart failure is having floaters, or seeing spots in your field of vision.

“I see twinkling spots in my vision sometimes. My doctor always told me people usually see black spots. Mine look like little fireflies instead.”

“Visual problems such as bolts of light, and seeing black dots/floaters.”

Shortness of breath when bending over

There is a term for the problem of feeling winded when bending over. Doctors call it bendopnea, and it can happen when someone leans forward and bends over, such as when picking something off the floor.

“Every time I am bending the body while I am petting my cat, my breathing becomes shorter and I have chest pain.”

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this story. We are always grateful for the amount of participation in this community.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Heart-Failure.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.

Community Poll

Have you taken our In America Survey yet?