Causes of Fluid Retention in Patients with Heart Problems

The heart is one of the main parts of our circulatory system. Failure of the heart to function properly will obstruct the entire circulatory system. And this may lead to the occurring of water retention. Let's take a look at the heart and its function as it will help you to better understand how and what are the causes of fluid retention in patients with heart problems and disorders.

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The heart's function

The heart is a muscular organ and its main responsibility is to pump the blood throughout the body.

The heart inside our body

  • The heart is located in the middle of the thorax; between the neck and the abdomen.
  • It consists of four chambers: the two upper are the atria (singular: atrium) and the two lower are the ventricles.
  • It has four valves located at the exit of each of the chambers that ensure the blood flows only in one direction: tricuspid valve, pulmonary valve, mitral valve, aortic valve.
  • It also has two coronary vessels that responsible in feeding the heart: coronary arteries and cardiac veins.

Right atrium: located at the upper right of the heart.
The right atrium collects de-oxygenated blood from the body. The blood is held until the right atrium contracts.


Tricuspid valve: located between the right atrium and the right ventricle.
When the right atrium contracts, the de-oxygenated blood flows to the right ventricle through open tricuspid valve. When the ventricle is full, the valve will shut to prevent the blood from flowing back into the atrium.


Right ventricle: located at the lower right of the heart
When the right ventricle contracts, the de-oxygenated blood is pumped to the lungs to be re-oxygenated; to remove carbon dioxide and pick up fresh oxygen.


Pulmonary valve: located between the right ventricle and pulmonary artery.
The de-oxygenated blood is propelled to the pulmonary artery then the lungs through pulmonary valve.


Left atrium: located at the upper left of the heart.
The left atrium collects oxygenated blood from the lungs. The blood is held until the left atrium contracts.


Mitral valve: located between the left atrium and the left ventricle.
When the left atrium contracts, the oxygenated blood flows to the left ventricle through open mitral valve. When the ventricle is full, the valve will shut to prevent the blood from flowing back into the atrium.


Left ventricle: located at the lower left of the heart.
In the left ventricle, the oxygenated blood is pumped out through open aortic valve to every cell of the body.


Aortic valve: located between the left ventricle and aorta.
The oxygenated blood is propelled to the aorta then throughout the body through this aortic valve.



Coronary blood vessels

Besides pumping the blood to feed the body, the heart needs nourishment for itself (the heart muscle) too. This is accomplished through the coronary blood vessels. It delivers the blood deep into the heart muscle tissues. There're two coronary vessels that responsible in feeding the heart: Coronary arteries and cardiac veins. Coronary arteries deliver oxygenated blood to the heart muscle while cardiac veins remove deoxygenated blood from the heart muscle. The coronary arteries also have an auto-regulation to keep the level of blood flow appropriate the needs of the heart muscle.

Causes of fluid retention in patients with heart problems

There're many things that might interfere the heart's function thus obstruct the flow of the blood to the body. People with heart problems often suffer fluid retention such as pulmonary edema and swelling in the legs, ankles and feet. The causes of fluid retention in heart problem patients:

  • The blood from the lungs to the heart back up and cause the fluid leaks into the lungs (pulmonary congestive).
  • Our body has several mechanisms that maintain the balance of fluid in our body thus when it senses a significant decreased of blood flow, it'll retain fluid to balance the seeming decreased of body fluid. The retention will result in extreme fluid retention such as ankles, feet and legs swelling.