Congestive heart failure is the condition, where the heart fails to pump enough blood to the cells and tissues of the body. This article explains some of its common symptoms, along with the causes and treatment options.
Congestive heart failure is the condition characterized by insufficient cardiac output, and the congestion of the body tissues due to the accumulation of fluid. It is the condition, where the heart fails to pump enough blood to the cells and tissues of the body. As the flow of blood coming from the heart reduces, the blood returning to the heart through the veins starts to collect, which causes the congestion or the accumulation of fluid inside the tissues. Various conditions can cause congestive heart failure.
Congestive Heart Failure Causes
Any condition that can reduce the ability of the heart to pump enough blood, as well as the factors that can increase the requirement of oxygen and blood in the body to such an extent that the heart fails to meet that demand, can cause heart failure.
Conditions that can weaken the heart and compromise its pumping capacity are, coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction, arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy (damage of the heart muscles), myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscles), congenital heart defects, a defect in the heart valves, an infection of the valves, and abnormal heart rhythm or heart arrhythmia.
Diseases that affect the pericardium, mitral or aortic regurgitation, a hole in the heart, and narrowing of the arteries can also cause this condition. Apart from these, some other possible causes are, hyperthyroidism, emphysema, diabetes, severe anemia, a severe allergic reaction, and the formation blood clots in the lungs. Factors like alcohol abuse, hypertension, diabetes, previous heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, and certain kidney diseases are some important risk factors for this condition.
Congestive Heart Failure Signs
The inability of the heart to pump enough oxygenated blood can manifest in several symptoms. Congestive heart failure can be acute or chronic. In acute heart failure, the symptoms can develop suddenly and worsen quickly. On the other hand, the symptoms of chronic heart failure can worsen gradually over a period of time. The most common symptoms of this condition are:
- Shortness of breath, especially on exertion
- Increased fatigue and weakness
- Edema or fluid retention in the body, especially in the legs, feet, and the ankles
- Rapid heartbeat
- Sudden weight gain (due to edema)
- Coughing and wheezing
- Ascites or accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity
- Chest pain
- Nausea and decreased appetite
Women are more likely to develop shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling, and weight gain due to this condition. Water retention and the resulting swelling can more commonly affect the ankles. Some other symptoms that are usually observed in women are, a bulging neck vein, persistent dry cough, chest pain, increased heart rate, and frequent urination in the night.
This condition is more common among the elderly. The symptoms that are commonly observed in the elderly are, shortness of breath, especially while lying down, fainting, shock, fluid accumulation, swelling of the ankles and feet, nausea, loss of appetite, pain in the abdomen, and cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest can cause sudden death of the affected individual.
The symptoms usually worsen in the advanced stage of congestive heart failure. The symptoms of advanced congestive heart failure are, peripheral edema, pulmonary edema, difficulty in breathing properly while lying down, kidney failure, difficulty in concentrating, reduced alertness, persistent cough with pinkish phlegm, and swelling of the abdomen, feet, and the legs.
Diagnosis and Treatment
This condition is usually diagnosed by evaluating the medical history of the patient, and by carrying out diagnostic procedures like chest X-rays, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, blood tests, ejection fraction, coronary catheterization, cardiac computerized tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging. All these tests and examinations help ascertain the underlying causes of heart failure.
Depending on the causes, an appropriate treatment plan can be designed. Usually, this condition is treated with medications like beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, diuretics, digoxin, angiotensin II receptor blockers, and aldosterone antagonists. Sometimes, a mechanical device like a pacemaker can also be considered for managing this condition. Other treatment options include, repair of the faulty heart valves, use of implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, implantation of heart pumps, and heart transplantation.
Along with medical treatment, lifestyle changes can help manage this condition, and prevent it from worsening. So, consider to reduce the intake of salt or sodium, quit smoking, reduce the consumption of alcohol, and exercise regularly to maintain an ideal body weight, which can help prevent the complications associated with this condition.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.