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Heart Symptoms and Causes

Common symptoms for cardiac conditions

Dr. Christina Adams walks with a person in a hallway, representing the personal cardiology care at Scripps.

Dr. Christina Adams, Cardiology, Scripps Clinic

Common symptoms for cardiac conditions

Learn about symptoms commonly associated with various heart conditions. If you believe you are feeling any acute symptoms, please call 9-1-1 immediately. 


For less urgent concerns, like mild ankle swelling, the highly skilled and experienced teams at Scripps can assess your symptoms and recommend the right tests and imaging to diagnose a possible cardiovascular condition.

Atherosclerotic disease

Atherosclerotic disease is the thickening of fatty plaque in arteries, preventing adequate blood flow and possibly causing blood clots. 


Possible symptoms include:


  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
  • Neck pain


Causes can include:


  • Plaque buildup
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Smoking

Arrhythmia

An arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat, either in speed or strength. It's caused by a malfunction in the heart's electrical system.


Possible symptoms include:


  • Palpitations (fluttering or skipping a beat)
  • Racing heartbeats
  • Sweating
  • Slow heartbeats
  • Chest tightness
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizzy spells


Causes can include:


Congenital defects

Congenital defects are heart issues present at birth.


Possible symptoms include:


  • Swelling in the legs, ankles or abdomen
  • Skin tone pale blue or gray (cyanosis)
  • Tiredness
  • Shortness of breath


Causes can include:


  • Congenital defects are often the result of the heart not healing in the first hours or days of a newborn’s life. Medications and infections can affect a baby’s heart development.
  • Congenital defects can develop in adults, or symptoms of a defect may increase with other contributing factors.

Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is a disease specifically of the heart’s muscle tissue.


Possible symptoms include:


  • Swelling in feet, ankles and abdomen
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Lightheadedness
  • Indigestion
  • Fainting


Causes can include:


  • Obesity
  • Plaque buildup
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Age

Valvular disease

Valvular disease is a problem with the valves between the heart chambers that keep blood flowing in the correct direction.


Possible symptoms include:


  • Swelling in feet, ankles and abdomen
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue


Causes can include:


  • Rheumatic fever
  • Infection