Watch Out for These Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure

chest pain

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  • Patients who are in the early stages of congestive heart failure may not notice any changes to their health, but as the condition progresses, changes in the body may be felt
  • Congestive heart failure may be difficult to recognize among infants and young children who might be susceptible to this disease
  • Seek medical care as early as possible if congestive heart failure signs appear, to prevent the condition from worsening and complications from developing

Heart failure can be chronic or acute.1 Patients who are in the early stages of congestive heart failure may not notice any changes to their health, but as the condition progresses, changes in the body may be felt. Initial congestive heart failure symptoms include:2

  • Fatigue
  • Swelling in the ankles, feet and legs
  • Weight gain
  • Increased need to urinate, especially at night

If any of the following indicators appear, it can mean that the condition has worsened:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Cough that develops from congested lungs
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath which may indicate pulmonary edema

Signs and Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure in Children and Infants

Congestive heart failure may be difficult to recognize among infants and young children who might be susceptible to this disease. Symptoms in young patients include:3

Poor feeding

Excessive sweating

Difficulty breathing

Poor growth

Low blood pressure levels

Rapid heart rate through the chest wall (usually felt in babies)

In some cases, these symptoms may easily be misunderstood as colic or as a respiratory infection.

If These Signs of Congestive Heart Failure Appear, Seek Medical Care

Medical attention is needed if you or someone you know experiences these severe symptoms:4,5

Chest pain that radiates through the upper body (can also be a sign of a heart attack)

Rapid breathing or irregular heartbeat

Skin that appears blue (due to lack of oxygen in the lungs)

Fainting and weakness

Sudden and severe shortness of breath

Coughing up pink and foamy mucus

Take note that while symptoms may be triggered by congestive heart failure, there are other causes for their development, such as life-threatening heart and lung conditions. On the other hand, if you have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and any of the symptoms worsens or your body develops a new symptom, this means that your current condition has become more severe or you may not be sufficiently responding to treatments.

How Congestive Heart Failure Is Diagnosed

After reporting initial symptoms to your doctor, you may be referred to a cardiologist. The first step cardiologists take when diagnosing congestive heart failure is a physical exam. They will listen to your heart using a stethoscope to check for abnormal heart rhythms and order you to undergo diagnostic tests to examine the heart's valves, blood vessels and chambers. These tests can be helpful in confirming an initial diagnosis:6

Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG): This records your heart's rhythm. If there are abnormalities such as a rapid heartbeat or irregular rhythm, this can mean that the walls of the heart's chamber are thicker than normal. This is crucial because a thick wall can be a warning sign for a heart attack.

Echocardiogram: In this diagnostic test, sound waves record the heart's structure and motion. An echocardiogram can help determine if you have poor blood flow, muscle damage or a heart muscle that's not able to contract normally.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This involves taking pictures of the heart. Still and moving pictures can allow the cardiologist to check if there's damage in the heart.

Stress tests: These can show how well your heart performs under different levels of stress. If the heart works harder, this can make it easier for your doctor to diagnose problems.

Blood tests: These check for abnormal blood cells, infections and a hormone called BNP, which increases with heart failure.

Cardiac catheterization: This can show blockages of the coronary arteries. It involves a small tube being inserted into a large blood vessel that leads directly to your heart, usually in your upper leg. The tube is then threaded from your upper thigh (groin area), arm or wrist to your heart.7

At the same time, the physician can take blood samples, use X-rays to look at the coronary arteries and check blood flow and pressure in your heart chambers.

Seek medical care as early as possible if congestive heart failure signs appear, to prevent the condition from worsening and complications from developing. Avoid self-diagnosing and talk to your doctor to see if special care is required for your condition.8

MORE ABOUT CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE

Congestive Heart Failure: Introduction

What Is Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive Heart Failure Symptoms

Congestive Heart Failure Causes

Congestive Heart Failure Stages

Congestive Heart Failure Life Expectancy

Congestive Heart Failure Treatment

Congestive Heart Failure Prevention

Congestive Heart Failure Diet

Congestive Heart Failure FAQ

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