Causes, Symptoms, Pathophysiology & Treatment of Left Sided Heart Failure

Submitted by Nic on November 12, 2012

As the name suggests, left sided heart failure is failure of the left side of your heart. Heart failure can also be of the right side or total heart failure. The left side of the heart is where oxygenated blood is received and pumped to the whole body. When there is left sided heart failure, the heart’s capability to have the blood pumped to the various parts of the body is reduced.

Reasons for Left Sided Heart Failure

Some of well known causes of left sided heart failure are as follows:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Infections of the heart muscle or damage of the muscles due to some other disease
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Heart attack
  • Narrow or leaky heart valves

Around 2 of every 100 people are likely to be affected by left sided with heart failure. People will poor lifestyles and older people are more at risk.


Some of the common signs of left sided heart failure are as follows:

  • Persistent cough, with bloody or frothy mucus
  • Shortness of breath, especially when lying down and/or waking up from sleep due to shortness in breath
  • A general feeling of weakness or fatigue
  • Dizziness or a feeling of fainting
  • Reduced urine production
  • Rapid or irregular pulse
  • Palpitations


Some of the disorders related with heart failure are as follows:

Pulmonary edema: Here the heart is fails to pump blood effectively, there is an increase in the pressure in the veins present in the lungs, and this leads to fluid accumulation or pulmonary edema. People with pulmonary edema are at a risk of developing right ventricular heart failure.

Circulatory collapse (total failure of the heart): In the event of heart failure, the body compensates by releasing adrenaline and norepinephrine (fight-or-flight hormones). This makes the heart pump blood in more forceful manner; however, people with a damaged heart do no benefit from this as this puts added pressure on the heart, and can result in further deterioration of the heart.

Ventricular hypertrophy: If the heart has to work harder to pump blood, the walls of the ventricles enlarge overtime (akin to building muscles by exercise). While this initially helps improve heart function, over time the heart walls become stiff and worsen diastolic dysfunction.

Also, when the heart is not pumping sufficient blood, the body compensates by increasing the amount of salt and water in the bloodstream. This helps to increase the overall volume of blood and maintain blood pressure. Unfortunately, increased volume of blood exerts additional pressure on the walls of the heart and enlarges them, particularly the ventricles. While this may initially help, eventually it weakens the heart’s contractions further, worsening the condition. Abnormal heart rhythms are also related to left sided heart failure.


Treatment for left sided heart failure involves medication and diet and lifestyle changes. In some cases where the condition is worsened, surgery or cardiac catherization may be an option. In extreme cases, a defibrillator may be used, a pacemaker may be inserted, and/or a heart transplant may be needed.

Lifestyle changes required include:

  • Avoid alcohol
  • Stop smoking
  • Stay active
  • Exercise; consult your doctor to determine a safe workout routine.
  • If you are overweight, lose weight.
  • Reduce cholesterol
  • Get enough sleep

Medication includes those for reducing high blood pressure, slowing heart rhythms, preventing salt retention, preventing damage of the heart muscles, and so on.


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