The symptoms of heart failure can be related to the pooling of fluid in the body or can be secondary to decreased blood flow to the body. Some people with heart failure don't experience symptoms, but here are some of the more common signs:
Shortness of breath with exercise or difficulty breathing at rest or when lying down
Swollen legs, ankles, or abdomen
Dry, hacking cough, or wheezing
Other symptoms may include:
Fatigue, palpitations, or pain during normal activities
Your overall heart function. The
ejection fraction of your left ventricle is an
important indicator of your prognosis. The more severely damaged your heart
muscle is, the worse your ejection fraction might be.
The cause of your heart failure. Some people
have heart failure as the result of another health problem that can be treated.. For example,
heart failure can be caused by an overactive or
underactive thyroid gland,
anemia, or vitamin deficiencies. Or it may be caused by a heart valve problem such as
aortic valve stenosis or
mitral valve regurgitation. If these problems can be treated, the treatment may stop the progression of heart failure before permanent damage happens.
Heart failure associated with alcohol use or pregnancy may
spontaneously resolve itself over time. People with heart failure caused by
severe high blood pressure (hypertension) may see considerable improvement of
their symptoms when they control their hypertension.
Many people who have heart failure also have other heart problems. These problems make treating heart failure harder. For example, someone with heart failure may also have coronary artery disease and need treatment for both problems.
How long you've had heart failure. If you have
had heart failure symptoms for a short period of time and you receive
aggressive treatment, you are more likely to have improved heart function than
people with a long history of symptoms. Although there is no specific length of
time after which your heart function is unlikely to improve, the longer you
have had heart failure, the less likely it is that your heart function may
improve significantly even with appropriate treatment.
Compensatory factors. As heart failure gets
worse, the body makes various adjustments-referred to as "compensatory
factors"-to correct the effects of heart failure on other organs. One such
compensatory factor is an increase in various hormone levels, including renin,
aldosterone, norepinephrine, atrial natriuretic peptide, and prostaglandins.
Your doctor can measure the amount of these hormones in your blood and
the amount of sodium in your blood. Increases of these hormones and
sodium can point to severe heart failure.
Increases in these hormonal factors and other compensatory factors often make
heart failure worse over time.
Primary Medical Reviewer
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
August 5, 2010
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
August 05, 2010
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