What is congestive heart failure?
Congestive heart failure, which is sometimes simply called heart failure happens when the heart doesn’t pump the blood as efficiently as it should. This can occur due to conditions like high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, or a genetic heart condition. These conditions damage the heart leaving it weak. However, congestive heart failure can also occur if the heart is too stiff. Some of these conditions can be reversed, but many of those that can’t are treated with medications and lifestyle changes. Preventing or controlling these conditions can go a long way in preventing heart failure.
Are there different types of congestive heart failure?
Congestive heart failure can either be ongoing (chronic) or come on suddenly (acute.) Generally, heart failure begins on the left side of the heart but it can present in other parts of the heart.
Left-sided heart failure: Fluid comes back up in the lungs causing shortness of breath.
Right-sided heart failure: Fluid can back up into the legs, feet, or abdomen causing swelling.
Systolic heart failure: Left ventricle can’t contract properly, indicating a pumping issue.
Diastolic heart failure: Left ventricle can’t relax or fill up fully indicating a filling issue.
The signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure are:
- Shortness of breath when you exert yourself or when you lie down
- Swelling in your legs, ankles, and feet
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Consistent cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm
- Increased need to urinate at night
- Swelling of your abdomen
- Very rapid weight gain from fluid retention
- Lack of appetite and nausea
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sudden, severe shortness of breath and coughing up pink, foamy mucus
- Chest pain if your heart failure is caused by a heart attack
If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms seek emergency care immediately.
Congestive heart failure in children.
While most people assume heart failure only happens in adults, it can happen at all ages, including infants. Generally, when a child has congestive heart failure it is caused by a congenital heart defect.
Congestive heart failure symptoms in children:
- Visible swelling in eyelids, face, ankles, legs, and occasionally abdomen.
- Rapid breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Falling asleep when eating or being too tired to eat
- No appetite
- Rapid weight gain due to fluid retention
- Congestion in the lungs
- Sweating while feeding
- Loss of muscle mass
- Inability to gain weight
- Clammy, flushed, or cold skin
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