What Conditions Are Mistaken for Heart Failure?

Failing to recognize the signs of a medical complication or mistaking them for another can lead to critical misdiagnosis errors in Oregon healthcare. While heart failure is a severe problem, other underlying conditions may create the same symptoms as heart failure, leading to misdiagnosis and worsening of diseases that become life-threatening. A Portland misdiagnosis lawyer may be able to help if you or a loved one suffered harm due to a preventable diagnostic error. The following conditions may be mistaken for heart failure.

Lung Conditions

Shortness of breath is a symptom of both heart failure and lung disease. Diseases of the lungs that may lead to shortness of breath and are mistaken for heart failure may include interstitial lung diseases that lead to scarring in the lungs and are sometimes caused by common conditions like acid reflux. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an interstitial lung disease also mistaken for heart failure.

Kidney Disease

The symptoms of chronic kidney disease closely resemble heart failure. The symptoms of chronic kidney disease are often missed because it is a slowly developing health issue. Symptoms may include:

  • Swelling in the feet and ankles
  • Muscle cramps
  • Changes in urination patterns
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Uncontrollable high blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting

Because of the nonspecific nature of the symptoms, kidney disease is often mistaken or misdiagnosed for other issues, such as heart failure. Unfortunately, misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose kidney disease in Oregon can lead to irreversible damage.


The immune response in the body is significantly impacted by the lymphatic system responsible for detecting and releasing white blood cells from the lymph nodes to fight off potentially threatening organisms such as bacteria and viruses. This system is also responsible for regulating fluids in the body. Diseases of the lymphatic system known as lymphedema can lead to swelling and edema and may look like heart failure but are a result of lymphatic system disease.


Red blood cells are vital transmitters in the blood that deliver oxygen throughout the body. Anemia affects approximately three million people in the United States and may be caused by:

  • Diets low in iron-rich foods
  • Heavy menstrual cycles
  • Internal bleeding resulting from ulcers, cancers, and the use of certain medications
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Vitamin deficiency

Anemia is relatively easy to diagnose but is a condition that may be mistaken for heart failure because it causes shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, and other symptoms. Long term failure to treat anemia may lead to organ failure, heart conditions in mature adults, and developmental delays in children.


Advanced stages of this liver disease may mimic the symptoms of heart failure. Cirrhosis is liver damage that results in scar tissue replacing healthy tissue in the liver. Cirrhosis may be caused by:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Hepatitis B or C infection
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Long-term use of specific medication
  • Autoimmune hepatitis

Progressive stages of cirrhosis can lead to swelling in the ankles, feet, and lower legs, resembling the symptoms of heart failure. Failing to address cirrhosis can lead to further liver damage, resulting in liver failure.

The Prevalence of Misdiagnosis in the United States

Reports from Johns Hopkins Medicine indicate that annually, 795,000 Americans experience serious harm due to diagnostic errors. Having a health condition mistaken for heart failure can lead to irreparable damage, leading to costly medical expenses from medical malpractice in Oregon. Discover available options for compensation recovery.