Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure is a chronic condition in which the heart is weakened and doesn't pump as well as it should, resulting in congestion.

What is congestive heart failure?

Congestive heart failure is a chronic condition in which the heart is weakened and doesn’t pump as well as it should, resulting in congestion. With heart failure, blood moves through the body and heart at a much slower rate and pressure in the heart increases. When this happens, the heart cannot pump the necessary levels of oxygen and nutrients. In response, the chambers of the heart may stretch to hold more blood or they will become stiff and thickened. This helps in the short-term,  but eventually this will cause the heart muscle walls to weaken. Congestion occurs when the kidneys respond to this heart failure by causing the body to retain water and salt, eventually leading to fluid build up.

There are two types of heart failure: diastolic and systolic. A diastolic dysfunction occurs when the the heart’s ventricles are too stiff and do not relax properly, allowing less blood to enter the heart. A systolic dysfunction occurs when the heart muscle doesn’t contract with enough force, allowing less oxygen-rich blood to be pumped throughout the body.

What are the signs and symptoms?

The symptoms can range in severity and, in some cases, you may not experience any symptoms with congestive heart failure. They can also come and go or be felt constantly. The most common symptoms include:

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats
  • Congested lungs (fluid backup that makes breathing difficult)
  • Swollen ankles, legs and abdomen, as a result of water and fluid retention in the body
  • A dry, hacking cough and/or wheezing
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue and weakness

What are the causes?

Heart failure is caused by many conditions that damage or weaken the heart muscle, including:

  • Heart attacks
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD), which causes decreased blood flow to the heart muscle
  • Cardiomyopathy (damage to the heart from infections, alcohol or drug abuse)
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart valve disease (when one or more of the valves in your heart do not work properly)
  • Thyroid disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Congenital heart defects

Additional risk factors include:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Alcohol use
  • Tobacco use
  • Obesity

What are the treatments?

Congestive heart failure is a chronic disease that requires lifelong management. Luckily, heart failure can improve and the heart can gain strength. Medication and surgery are both used as treatment options. You may be prescribed two or more medications to treat your heart failure. Other medication might be recommended by your doctor to treat chest pain and other symptoms. Coronary bypass surgery and heart valve repair or replacement are two of the more popular surgical treatments. The surgery you need will depend on the condition of your heart.

Schedule an appointment in Spokane, Washington

If you live in Spokane or the surrounding areas and you suffer from any of the symptoms listed above, schedule an appointment at Jamison Family Medicine. We can schedule blood tests, chest X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, echocardiograms and other tests to diagnose your condition. If you are suffering from congestive heart failure, we can provide you with the proper treatments. Schedule today on our website.

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