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Heart Failure - Treatment Overview

Your treatment for heart failure depends on:

  • The cause of your heart failure.
  • Which type of heart failure you have.
  • How bad your symptoms are (classification).
  • How well your body is able to make up (compensate) for your heart failure.

In the early stages of heart failure, treatment can help your symptoms. It may also prevent more damage to your heart. Treatment may include:

Recommended Related to Heart Failure

Understanding Heart Failure -- Symptoms

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 Weig...

Read the Understanding Heart Failure -- Symptoms article > >

As part of your ongoing treatment, your doctor will also try to prevent or treat problems—such as fever, arrhythmia, and anemia—that can lead to sudden heart failure. Treatment may include:

  • Getting vaccines. Your doctor may want you to get vaccines against pneumonia and flu. These vaccines can keep you from getting infections that could put you in the hospital.
  • Checking your weight. Your doctor will probably give you guidelines for watching fluid buildup and tell you how much weight gain is too much.
  • Getting devices to fix heart rhythm problems. In some cases, your doctor may recommend a biventricular pacemaker that can help your heart pump blood better. This is also called cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT). Or you may have an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) to stop a deadly rhythm. Some people get a pacemaker that is combined with an ICD.
  • Oxygen treatment. Your doctor may recommend oxygen therapy to reduce your shortness of breath and increase your ability to exercise.

You might take part in a disease management program. These programs include a broad range of services, such as education, home health care, visiting nurses, and rehabilitation.

A very small number of people may have other treatments, including:

Treatment for causes of heart failure

If you have other heart problems that may have led to heart failure, you might have treatment for those problems:

Sometimes heart failure can be fixed if another problem can be corrected, such as by treating hyperthyroidism.

End-of-life care

Because heart failure tends to get worse over time, it's important to think about what kind of care you would like at the end of your life. It's also important that your doctor and family know what you want.

An advance directive is a legal document that tells doctors how to care for you at the end of your life. To learn more, see End-of-Life Decisions.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 08, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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