What is congestive heart failure?
Congestive heart failure or CHF manifests when the heart gradually loses its ability to pump sufficient levels of oxygenated blood throughout the body. It is often triggered by disorders that cause heart muscle deterioration, rigidity of the heart muscle or diseases that increase the demand for oxygenated blood within the body, thereby decreasing the heart’s ability to provide an adequate supply.
The condition has the potential to affect several organs. It often affects the kidneys when the heart no longer pumps enough blood throughout the body. They become unable to excrete sodium and water leading to reduced function. Once this happens, the body begins to retain fluid. CHF may also impair the lungs causing pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs). The affected individual may realize that normal physical activity becomes increasingly difficult to perform once lung function is compromised. The liver and the intestines may also succumb to the effects of the disorder and slowly lose their ability to perform routine tasks. The liver will no longer generate essential proteins nor will it be able to properly remove toxins from the body and the intestines progressively lose their ability to absorb nutrients during food digestion. As the disease worsens edema (swelling) may be apparent in the feet and ankles. The latter stages of CHF progression lead to the inevitable breakdown of all major organs.
What causes the development of congestive heart failure?
Congestive heart failure is often caused by the presence of other diseases that weaken the heart’s pumping capabilities. The most common triggers include:
- Coronary Artery Disease
- Years of alcohol abuse
- Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
- Disorders that impair heart valve function.
Other less prevalent causes include viral infections that stiffen the heart muscles, heart rhythm disorders and thyroid disorders.
What are common congestive heart failure symptoms?
Congestive heart failure symptoms may vary among affected persons. The symptoms exhibited will largely depend on the organ or organs that are initially weakened and also on how efficiently the body will be able to adapt itself to the effects of the disease, thereby concealing some symptoms.
Fatigue is one of the first symptoms to materialize. This overall feeling of tiredness may not necessarily be pronounced in all individuals with the condition. In addition, fatigue may be caused by other factors including stress, other diseases and depression. On its own, fatigue will not be a defining symptom, however, it is usually judged in relation to other congestive heart failure symptoms that are more indicative of the disorder.
Swelling may become apparent as the disease progresses. Ankles, legs and abdomen will be the most likely affected areas. Fluid may also begin to collect in the lungs leading to shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. The effect on breathing patterns will be most evident during strenuous activity or when lying on the back. Affected individuals may also report being suddenly awakened at night because of breathlessness.
Other Congestive Heart Failure Symptoms
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal Pain
- Frequent urination