Although often referred to simply as heart failure, congestive heart failure (CHF) is specific to the final stages of heart failure when the heart is unable to meet the requirements of the body. It does not mean that the heart completely stops pumping blood but rather when it’s just too weak to function as normal.
There are two types of CHF. Left – sided CHF is more common, which occurs when the left ventricle is unable to pump the blood out of the body. Right – sided CHF is less common than the left – sided CHF, characterized by a difficulty of the right ventricle to pump the blood into the lungs. The signs and symptoms of CHF will also depend from the type of CHF. Left- sided CHF is characterized by a fluid build – up in the lungs, while right – sided CHF is characterized by a fluid build – up in the lower extremities, abdomen and other vital organs of the body.
What leads to Heart Disease?
The most common causes of CHF include:
- High blood pressure
- Valve conditions
- Coronary artery disease
- Severe allergic reaction
- Severe infections
- Thyroid disease
Heart failure is the first step, which happens when blood flowing through your blood vessels becomes slowed. This is often as a result of high blood pressure due to weakened blood vessels. Due to the reduced pressure in the blood vessels, your heart tries to compensate for the reduction in pressure by expanding in order to hold more blood and pump it faster.
The heart muscles, therefore, become stiff and thickened to pump an increased amount of blood. The heart muscles stay that way for some time. If all conditions remain the same, the heart’s expansion to compensate for pressure would work, but the causative factor, like high blood pressure, usually goes undetected. This causes increased strain on the heart and the heart muscles keep thickening until they get to a point when they are too weak to pump the increased volume of blood.
At this point, the body is unable to remove waste and water begins to build up in your lower extremities, lungs or abdomen. This stage is referred to as congestive heart failure.
Symptoms of a congestive heart failure
The symptoms of CHF can vary from person to person, being consistent in one person and coming and going in another. They could also vary in severity, sometimes being mild and hard to notice or severe. It might be important, however, to watch out for these symptoms especially if the person is at risk.
At the early stages, symptoms seem to have little in connection with the heart, like:
- weight gain
- increased need to urinate, especially at night
After some time, as the heart muscles continue to weaken further, more serious symptoms may begin to show:
- Congested lungs: due to fluid backup, the individual may experience a shortness of breath after exercise or even when lying down. this is often accompanied by a dry cough or wheezing
- irregular heartbeat: the individual will show a varied reading of their heartbeat through a blood pressure test
- swelling of the ankles, feet and legs: fluids may begin to build up in your body starting with the lower body
If the individual keeps ignoring these symptoms, they may get worse. In case of any of these, they should be rushed to a hospital immediately:
- chest pain: the patient will feel a radiating pain from the heart and spreading throughout the chest region
- bluish skin: lack of oxygen to the body causes the skin to turn blue
- rapid breathing: shortness of breath becomes weak and the patient will begin panting continuously
Diagnosis and treatment
There are various diagnostic measures the doctor will take to establish the cause of the symptoms and isolate CHF as the cause. Necessary examinations include:
- Stress test
- Blood tests
- Cardiac catheterization
Afterwards, they may prescribe medications during the early stages (diuretics, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors) and perhaps even surgery in its advanced stages.
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