Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
|Symptoms you may notice first||Symptoms that indicate your condition has worsened||Symptoms that indicate a severe heart condition|
|fatigue||irregular heartbeat||chest pain that radiates through the upper body|
|swelling in your ankles, feet, and legs||a cough that develops from congested lungs||rapid breathing|
|weight gain||wheezing||skin that appears blue, which is due to lack of oxygen in your lungs|
|increased need to urinate, especially at night||shortness of breath, which may indicate pulmonary edema||fainting|
Chest pain that radiates through the upper body can also be a sign of a heart attack. If you experience it or any of the other symptoms that point to a severe heart condition, please seek immediate medical attention.
After reporting your symptoms to your healthcare provider, they may refer you to a heart specialist, or cardiologist.
Your cardiologist will perform a physical exam. The exam may involve listening to your heart with a stethoscope to detect abnormal heart rhythms. To confirm an initial diagnosis, your cardiologist might order certain diagnostic tests to examine your heart’s valves, blood vessels, and chambers.
Here are some tests your cardiologist may recommend:
- An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) records your heart’s rhythm.
- An echocardiogram uses sound waves to record the heart’s structure and motion.
- An MRI takes pictures of your heart.
- Stress tests show how well your heart performs under different levels of stress.
- Blood tests can check for abnormal blood cells and infections.
- Cardiac catheterization will show blockages of the coronary arteries. Your doctor inserts a small tube into your blood vessel and threads it from your upper thigh (groin area), arm, or wrist.
You and your doctor may consider different treatments depending on your overall health and how far your condition has progressed.
There are several medications that can be used to treat CHF:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors) open up narrowed blood vessels to improve blood flow. Vasodilators are another option if you cannot tolerate ACE inhibitors.
- Beta-blockers can reduce blood pressure and slow a rapid heart rhythm.
- Diuretics reduce your body’s fluid content. CHF can cause your body to retain more fluid than it should.
If medications are not effective on their own, more invasive procedures may be required. Angioplasty, a procedure to open up blocked arteries, is one option. Your cardiologist may also consider heart valve repair surgery to help your valves open and close properly.
Your condition may improve with medication or surgery. Your outlook depends on how advanced your CHF is and whether you have other health conditions to treat, such as diabetes or hypertension. The earlier your condition is diagnosed, the better your outlook will be. See your doctor to determine the best treatment plan for you.
Medically Reviewed by: Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COI
Published: Jun 5, 2015
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.