Heart failure, also called congestive heart failure, is a condition in which the heart can no longer pump enough blood to the rest of the body.
Heart failure is a chronic, long-term condition, although it can sometimes develop suddenly.
The condition may affect only the right side or only the left side of the heart. These are called right-sided heart failure or left-sided heart failure. More often, both sides of the heart are involved.
Heart failure is present when the following changes are present:
Both of these problems mean the heart is no longer able to pump enough oxygen-rich blood out to the rest of your body, especially when you exercise or are active.
As the heart's pumping action is lost, blood may back up in other areas of the body, causing fluid to build up in the lungs, the liver, the gastrointestinal tract, and the arms and legs. As a result, there is a lack of oxygen and nutrition to organs, which damages them and reduces their ability to work properly.
Perhaps the most common cause of heart failure is coronary artery disease (CAD), a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. For information on this condition and its risk factors, see: Coronary artery disease.
Heart failure can also occur when an infection weakens the heart muscle. Such a disorder is called cardiomyopathy. There are many different types. For more information, see: Cardiomyopathy
Other heart problems that may cause heart failure are:
Diseases such as emphysema, severe anemia, hyperthyroidism, or hypothyroidism may also cause or contribute to heart failure.
Symptoms of heart failure most often begin slowly. At first, they may only occur when you are very active. Over time, breathing problems and other symptoms may be noticed even when you are resting.
However, heart failure symptoms may begin suddenly after a heart attack or other heart problem.
Common symptoms are:
Other symptoms may include:
Infants may sweat during feeding (or other activity).
Some patients with heart failure have no symptoms. In these people, the symptoms may develop only with these conditions:
A physical examination may reveal the following:
Listening to the chest with a stethoscope may reveal lung crackles or abnormal heart sounds.
The following tests may be used to diagnose or monitor heart failure:
This disease may also alter the following test results:
MONITORING AND SELF CARE
If you have heart failure, your doctor will monitor you closely. You will have follow up appointments at least every 3 to 6 months and tests to check your heart function. For example, an ultrasound of your heart (echocardiogram) will be done once in awhile to see how well your heart pumps blood with each beat.
You will need to carefully monitor yourself and help manage your condition. One important way to do this is to track your weight on a daily basis. Weigh yourself at the same time each day and on the same scale, with little to no clothes on.
Weight gain can be a sign that your body is holding onto extra fluid and your heart failure is worsening. Talk to your doctor about what you should do if your weight goes up or if you develop more symptoms.
Other important measures include:
Here are some tips to lower your salt and sodium intake:
Your doctor may prescribe the following medications:
Certain medications may make heart failure worse and should be avoided. These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, thiazolidinediones, metformin, cilostazol, PDE-5 inhibitors (sildenafil, vardenafil), and many drugs that treat abnormal heart rhythms.
SURGERIES AND DEVICES
Heart valve surgery, coronary bypass surgery (CABG), and angioplasty may help some people with heart failure.
The following devices may be recommended for certain patients with heart failure:
Severe heart failure may require the following treatments when other therapies no longer work. They are often used when a person is waiting for a heart transplant:
Note: These devices can be life saving, but they are not permanent solutions. Patients who become dependent on circulatory support will need a heart transplant.
Heart failure is a serious disorder. It is usually a chronic illness, which may get worse with infection or other physical stress.
Many forms of heart failure can be controlled with medication, lifestyle changes, and treatment of any underlying disorder.
Possible side effects of medications include:
Call your health care provider if weakness, increased cough or sputum production, sudden weight gain or swelling, or other new or unexplained symptoms develop.
Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you experience severe crushing chest pain, fainting, or rapid and irregular heartbeat (particularly if other symptoms accompany a rapid and irregular heartbeat).
Follow your health care provider's treatment recommendations and take all medications as directed.
Keep your blood pressure , heart rate, and cholesterol under control as recommended by your doctor. This may involve exercise, a special diet, and medications.
Other important treatment measures:
CHF; Congestive heart failure; Left-sided heart failure; Right-sided heart failure