Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a heart disease where your heart has been working much too hard for too many years. It continues pumping blood, but not nearly as well as it should. As a result, your blood flow slows down.
The function of the heart is to pump blood throughout our body. The blood carries oxygen thus delivering the much-needed oxygen to our other body parts. Thus, if the heart is impaired, our body’s tissues don’t get enough oxygen it needs to function, as they should. The body tries to compensate for the shortfall by increasing your breathing rate to get more air. This is one reason why shortness of breath is a common congestive heart failure symptom.
Symptoms of this heart disease or heart failure may begin suddenly, especially if the cause is a heart attack. However, in most people, symptoms develop over days to months. The disease may stabilize for periods of time but often progresses slowly and insidiously.
Weakness is a symptom of heart disease, because there is no enough oxygen being delivered to the body, there is a general feeling of weakness of the muscle when doing physical activities.
Sleepiness is another symptom of heart disease or heart failure.
confusion and disorientation is also a symptom of heart failure especially for older people,
Swelling (edema) of the feet, ankle, legs, liver and abdomen is also a symptom of heart disease or right heart failure.
Fluid accumulation to the lungs that is characterized by the shortness of breath is a symptom of heart disease particularly left heart failure. This symptom is usually felt while or during physical exertion, but as the heart failure progresses, difficulty in breathing may occur even while at rest.
Other symptoms would be, difficulty of maintaining concentration, sleeplessness, the need to urinate especially at night, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite.
Any disorder that directly affects the heart can lead to heart failure, as can some disorders indirectly affect the heart. Some disorders cause heart failure immediately, others do so only after many years. Some disorders cause systolic dysfunction, impairing the heart’s ability to pump out blood, and others cause diastolic dysfunction, impairing the heart’s ability to fill with blood. Some disorders, such as high blood pressure and heart valve disorders, can cause both types of dysfunctions.
A physical examination may reveal either an irregular or a rapid heartbeat. There may be distended neck veins, enlarged liver, swelling of the limbs (peripheral edema), and signs of fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion).
Listening to the chest with a stethoscope may reveal lung crackles or abnormal heart sounds. Blood pressure may be normal, high, or low.
An enlargement of the heart or decreased heart functioning may be seen on several tests, including the following:
- Heart catheterization
- Chest x-ray
- Chest CT scan
- Cardiac MRI
- Nuclear heart scans (MUGA, RNV)
- ECG, which may also show arrhythmias
This disease may also alter the following test results:
- Blood chemistry
- Serum sodium
- Liver function tests
- Serum uric acid
- Atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) and brain natriuretic peptide (BNP)
- Urinary sodium
- Creatinine clearance
- Swan-Ganz measurements (right heart catheterization)
If excessive fluid has accumulated around the sac surrounding the heart (pericardium), you may need to have the fluid removed through a pericardiocentesis.
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