July 26, 2016

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

What are the signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure?

Shortness of breath

The hallmark and most common symptom of left heart failure is shortness of breath and may occur.

  • while at rest
  • with activity or exertion
  • while lying flat (orthopnea)
  • while awakening the person from sleep (paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea); or
  • due to fluid (water, mainly) accumulation in the lungs or the inability of the heart to be efficient enough to pump blood to the organs of the body when called upon in times of exertion or stress.

Chest Pain

Chest pain or angina may be associated, especially if the underlying cause of the failure is atherosclerotic heart disease.

Right heart failure, left heart failure, or both

  • Patients with right heart failure leak fluid into the tissue and organs that deliver blood to the right heart through the vena cava.
  • Back pressure in capillary blood vessels cause them to leak water into the space between cells and commonly the fluid can be found in the lowest parts of the body.
  • Gravity causes fluid to accumulate in the feet and ankles but as more fluid accumulates, it may creep up to involve all of the lower legs.
  • Fluid can also accumulate within the liver causing it to swell (hepatomegaly) and also within the abdominal cavity (ascites).
  • Ascites and hepatomegaly may make the patient feel bloated, nauseated, and have abdominal pain with the feeling of distension.
  • Depending upon their underlying illness and the clinical situation, patients may have symptoms of right heart failure, left heart failure, or both. Continue Reading
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Reviewed on 5/19/2016