Congestive heart failure (CHF), often termed as a heart failure is a condition in which a structure, or a function of the heart is impaired, which affects its ability to pump and supply sufficient blood. In short, heart failure does not mean that the heart stops working, it's just that it is not capable of pumping adequate blood to meet the body's requirement to ensure smooth functioning of the organs. CHF affects the heart's capability to pump oxygenated blood from the heart to the lungs, and through the circulatory system.
End Stage of CHF
There are many factors that may lead to development of end stage of the CHF. In this condition the arteries become narrow down even more, thereby slowing down the pumping of blood. Previous heart attack, myocardial infarction, infection of the heart valves, high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease), heart valve disease, congenital heart defects, coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes, alcohol and substance abuse, etc. may also lead to this condition.
Symptoms of CHF
Symptoms of CHF vary depending upon the organ that is affected due to lowered oxygen supply. In the last stages, the symptoms are quite severe, and may manifest into an overwhelming feeling of weakness, fatigue accompanied with constant dizziness. This occurs as the brain receives lesser blood with each passing day. The heart beats become extremely irregular and fast as it needs to work harder to pump adequate blood to the body.
A severe congestion of lungs due to accumulation of fluids causes shortness of breath while performing most activities. Shortness of breath is caused due to retention of fluids in the lungs. This causes more problems for asthmatic patients or people who perform heavy exercises. CHF patients may experience difficulty breathing, and may lay awake at night gasping for breath. A persistent bout of cough or wheezing is also a common occurrence. Besides lungs, there is water and fluid retention in the kidneys, as they receive inadequate blood. This results in swollen ankles, legs, and abdomen.
Unexplained weight gain and loss of appetite may also be seen in some cases. Some may experience abdomen bloating. As the organs keep retaining fluids, the body reduces urine production which leads to swelling and inflammation. CHF is diagnosed using chest X-ray, echocardiogram (echo), electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), and a diagnostic blood test known as brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) level. Treatment depends upon the severity, history of any previous heart condition, as well as the age of the individual.
Dose and duration of medications such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), beta blockers, diuretics, etc. are prescribed keeping the in mind the condition of the person. Surgical procedures like coronary bypass surgery, heart valve repair or replacement, etc., or use of assist devices like heart pumps are also a part of the recommended treatment. Although, a lot depends on the severity of the final stage, a few lifestyle changes may prove helpful.