Heart Failure

Heart failure is a medical condition whereby the heart is unable to sufficiently pump blood around the body. As a result, parts of the body are deficient in the nutrients and oxygen otherwise delivered by blood. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue and swelling in the lower limbs and abdomen.

Heart Failure Symptoms

The symptoms experienced by the patient depends on which side of the heart is afflicted by heart failure.

  • Left-sided heart failure is associated with symptoms such as rapid breathing, cyanosis, wheezing, fatigue, exercise intolerance and shortness of breath.
  • Right-sided heart failure, in contrast, is associated with symptoms such as swelling, liver enlargement and ascites.
  • Patients may also experience night-time frequent urination and alterations in liver function.

Heart Failure Causes

There are numerous risk factors predisposing patients to heart failure.

  • One of the chief causes is cardiovascular disease.
  • Environmental factors such as cigarette smoking, obesity and diabetes, contribute to the overall risk of heart failure.
  • In addition, hypertension is also known as a likely cause of heart failure as the heart is compelled to work harder than it otherwise would have to.

There are, though, less likely causes of heart failure. Among these include valvular heart disease, ischemic heart disease, myocarditis and use of certain drugs. The development of heart failure is one that tends to occur over the long term, connected as it is with both existing disease and environmental factors.

Heart Failure Diagnosis

There is no single standard diagnostic test, though attempts are being made to introduce such a test. The mainstay of diagnostic procedures invariably involves the use of echocardiography and ultrasound. These tests inform the physician of the extent and efficiency of blood pumping by the heart. There are certain parameters – such as the ejection fraction – which allow for the measurement of the functioning of the heart. Alternatively, other diagnostic procedures – such as an electrocardiogram – may be used. This tells the physician of the existence of any latent cardiovascular disease and, with it, the risk of heart failure. Along with standard blood tests and symptoms experienced by the patient, the physician is able to diagnose patients with heart failure.

Heart Failure Treatment

The symptoms experienced by the patient depends on which side of the heart is afflicted by heart failure.

  • Left-sided heart failure is associated with symptoms such as rapid breathing, cyanosis, wheezing, fatigue, exercise intolerance and shortness of breath.
  • Right-sided heart failure, in contrast, is associated with symptoms such as swelling, liver enlargement and ascites.
  • Patients may also experience night-time frequent urination and alterations in liver function.