Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is one of the most fatal cardiovascular conditions, not only in the US, but on a worldwide basis. It is common among the elderly but affected populations are becoming younger. It is also more common in men than women. CHF is also the most common reason of hospitalization for elderly patients.

What is Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive Heart Failure or CHF is a cardiovascular condition in which the heart is unable to pump a sufficient amount of blood to meet the needs of the different tissues and organs of the body for oxygen and nutrients. It is considered as a clinical syndrome that’s characterized by two conditions – fluid overload or inefficient tissue perfusion. In CHF, the heart is unable to produce the adequate cardiac output (CO) to produce enough supply of blood for the body’s needs. This deprives oxygen to the different tissues and organs, leading to damage. Congestive heart failure is a type of myocardial heart disease in which the contraction of the heart is the underlying problem. CHF may be reversible but only in mild cases. However, it is most often a lifelong condition managed by healthy lifestyle changes and medications.congestive_heart_failure

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure?

There are two types of congestive heart failure – left-sided heart failure and right-sided heart failure.

Left-sided heart failure is the malfunction of the left ventricle which leads to pulmonary congestion. Compared to right-sided heart failure, it is more common and may also lead to right-sided heart failure. Since pulmonary congestion is apparent in left-sided heart failure, signs and symptoms are more of respiratory in nature.

  • Dyspnea (difficulty of breathing)
  • Orthopnea (difficulty of breathing when lying flat)
  • Tachypnea (increased respiratory rate)
  • Dry and unproductive cough (during initial stages)
  • Productive cough with pink frothy sputum (during severe pulmonary congestion)
  • Pulmonary crackles
  • Decreased oxygen saturation levels

Right-sided heart failure is the malfunction of the right ventricle which leads to systemic congestion. There’s congestion on the right side of the heart since it can’t handle taking in more blood. This leads to the backing up of blood in the peripheral tissues. In right-sided heart failure, signs and symptoms are systemic nature. That would mean that the signs and symptoms encompass several organ systems on top of the cardiovascular system.

  • Jugular vein distention
  • Edema (swelling – commonly on the lower extremities)
  • Hepatomegaly (enlargement of the liver)
  • Ascites (fluid accumulation in the peritoneal cavity)
  • Abdominal distention
  • Anorexia (loss of appetite)
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Weight gain (due to fluid retention)
  • Abnormal urinary patterns

There are also signs and symptoms found on both left-sided and right sided heart failure. These mainly focus on the oxygen exchange in the lungs and the inadequate pumping action of the heart.

  • Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms)
  • Tachycardia (increased heart rate)
  • Abnormal heart sounds (S3 and heart murmurs)
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Pallor (paleness of the skin – early)
  • Cyanosis (bluish discoloration of the skin – late)
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

For more information, speak with your primary care physician.