Congestive Heart Failure Symptoms

Congestive Heart Failure Symptoms will depend on which side of the heart is injured or damaged.


Congestive Heart Disease or Congestive Heart Failure doesn’t literally mean that the heart has already stopped. It’s a case wherein the heart doesn’t function like it used to and the other organs of the body doesn’t receive sufficient blood supply.  There are two types of Congestive Heart Disease classified according to where the damage is located – Left-Sided Heart Failure and Right-Sided Heart Failure.

What are the Classifications of Chronic Congestive Heart Disease?

The NYHA (New York Heart Association) Classification of symptoms of the patient, along with the Ejection Fraction or EF assessment is used to confirm the condition of the patient. Classification I doesn’t involve peripheral hypotension, pulmonary congestion, fatigue (See: Chronic Fatigue Symptoms), palpitations, or chest pain during ordinary activities. The patient is usually asymptomatic and doesn’t have any limitation in their activities. A good prognosis is expected.

Classification II includes a slight limitation on the patient’s activities of daily living. There are usually no symptoms but an increase in activity can cause them to appear. Basilar crackles and S₃ gallop may be present. Patients under this class have a good prognosis as well. People under Classification III have a marked restriction on their activities of daily living and have a fair prognosis.  Minimal amounts of activity can cause symptoms to appear and they may even feel uncomfortable during rest. In Classification IV, the patient may show signs and symptoms of cardiac insufficiency even at rest, giving the patient a poor prognosis even if he is undergoing treatment. Treatment guiding principles were developed for each stage to organize it.

What Causes Chronic Right-Sided Heart Failure?

In Right-Sided Heart Failure, the right ventricle’s pumping mechanism of the heart is affected. Because of this dysfunction, the blood that is supposed to travel to the pulmonary system has the tendency to back flow, bypassing the pulmonic valve, into the other parts of the body, resulting into congestion. Systemic congestion may occur in the liver, digestive tracts and the lower limbs. The main manifestation to every organ is edema or the pooling of fluids on an area.

The causes of Right-Sided Heart Failure involve primarily Left-Sided Heart Failure. In fact, it is deemed to be the sequelae of Left-Sided Heart Failure. COPD or the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases such as Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema can lead to right-sided heart failure. Additional causes are clots in the pulmonary artery, congenital heart disorders, heart valve disease and pulmonary hypertension.

What are Congestive Heart Failure Symptoms?

The increase in venous pressure will result to neck vein distention or  JVD (Jugular Vein Distention) and an increase in the hydrostatic pressure in the whole venous system. The clinical symptoms may include dependent edema or lower extremities edema,enlargement of the liver (hepatomegaly), accumulation of fluids in the peritoneal cavities (ascites), nausea, anorexiaweight gain and weakness.

Edema is common on the ankles and feet and is aggravated when the patient dangles the legs or stands. Elevation of the legs can alleviate it. Edema can develop from the legs up to the thigh and even up to the external genitalia and lower abdominal trunk. Measuring the patient’s abdominal girth can be used as evidence for abdominal edema. Pitting edema may also be present. To check for it, press the patient’s skin and if indention appear, that is pitting edema.

Swelling and tenderness detected in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen are indications of liver enlargement. The raised amount of pressure may hinder the function of the liver. As this condition worsens, ascites may form due to the increase of pressure within the portal vessels that force fluids into the peritoneum of the abdominal cavity. Ascites may produce an increase on the abdominal pressure affecting various organs of the gastrointestinal tract.

Weight loss, nausea, anorexia and abdominal pain may be an outcome of venous stasis and venous engorgement within the abdominal organs. Reduced cardiac output can lead to weakness, inadequate elimination of catabolic wastes and impaired circulation.

How is Congestive Heart Disease Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of heart failure is composed of a series of tests and physical examinations. It also includes identifying diseases that may run in the patient’s family and lead to heart failure. These procedures are essential in confirming if the patient really has heart failure as Congestive Heart Failure Symptoms may mimic other diseases. Physical examination may involve listening to the patient’s heart and lung sounds; assessment of the extremities, abdomen and jugular vein for edema; and other symptoms that may indicate the presence of heart failure.

After assessing the patient for the indentified symptoms of the disease, the physician may recommend a series of diagnostic tests. There can be no single diagnostic test to confirm heart failure. It may include EKG or Electrocardiogram, Chest X-ray, BNP Blood test, Echocardiography, Doppler ultrasound, Holter monitoring, Nuclear heart scan, Cardiac catheterization, Coronary angiography, Stress Test, Cardiac MRI and Thyroid Function Test (See: Thyroid symptoms).

What are the Treatments for Congestive Heart Failure Symptoms?

Congestive Heart Diseases require regular and frequent monitoring. It entails the health care provider to observe the patient during the course of treatment and to be able to control the Congestive Heart Failure Symptoms, reduce the workload of the heart and improve its functions. The treatment for this condition may incorporate lifestyle modifications, heart transplant, bypass surgeries and medications such as ACE inhibitors, ARBs (Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers), Beta-blockers, Diuretics, Calcium Channel Blockers. and other Inotropics such as Hydralazine, Isosorbide dinitrate and Digitalis.

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