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What are Symptoms of a Cardiac Cough?

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This article explores the symptoms and causes of a cardiac cough and when to get medical help for it.

Beck, Lenox & Stolzer Estate Planning and Elder Law found this of interest, especially since so many people we know are walking around with coughs that don’t seem to stop. If you have a long-term cough with congestive heart failure, that cough is something to watch and is called a cardiac cough. What are symptoms of a cardiac cough?

VeryWell Health’s recent article entitled “Coughing and Heart Failure” says that the symptoms of a cardiac cough vary depending on the specific cause. Possible symptoms include:

  • A wet cough that produces sputum (mucus) that may be a little pink due to blood
  • Heavy wheezing or a whistling sound that occurs while breathing, accompanied by coughing
  • Shortness of breath while engaging in activities or lying down
  • Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea (waking up due to coughing and shortness of breath)
  • A bubbling feeling in your chest due to fluid buildup in the lungs; and
  • A long-term dry cough that does not get better when treated.

If you’re experiencing signs of a cardiac cough, you may also have other symptoms of heart failure, such as fatigue and swelling.

A cardiac cough may indicate that:

  • Your heart condition is getting worse
  • Treatment isn’t working as it should
  • You’re experiencing side effects from your heart-failure medication; and
  • You have undiagnosed heart failure.

Congestive heart failure causes excess fluid (congestion) in your body. When this fluid builds up in your lungs’ alveoli (air sacs), it’s called lung congestion. The cardiac cough is your body’s attempt to clear out the fluid. The causes of lung congestion include:

  • Worsening heart failure
  • Your prescription heart medication is not working as effectively as it should (possibly due to worsening heart failure)
  • Failing to take your heart medication as prescribed; and
  • A side effect of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, a medication commonly prescribed for heart failure.

A cough can be mistaken for a symptom of lung disease when it’s actually a heart problem triggered by lung disease. A type of right-sided heart disease known as cor pulmonale is always caused by lung disease. Potential causes include:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the arteries of the lung)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Scars in the lung tissues (interstitial lung disease)
  • Autoimmune diseases that damage the lungs, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or scleroderma
  • Severe bronchiectasis (widening of the airways); and
  • Obstructive sleep apnea.

Because of the threat to your heart, do not assume a new or different type of cough is because of your respiratory condition. A cardiac cough can easily be mistaken for a cough with a different cause, such as a cold or allergies. Watch for symptoms of a cardiac cough and see a doctor to have it checked out. Better to be safe than to regret your inaction.

Reference: VeryWell Health (Aug. 25, 2022) “Coughing and Heart Failure”

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