Congestive heart failure (CHF), also called congestive cardiac failure (CCF) or just heart failure, is a condition that can result from any structural or functional cardiac disorder that impairs the ability of the heart to fill with or pump a sufficient amount of blood throughout the body.
It is not to be confused with "cessation of heartbeat", which is known as asystole, or with cardiac arrest, which is the cessation of normal cardiac function in the face of heart disease.
The symptoms depend largely on the side of the heart which is failing predominantly.
If both sides are functioning inadequately, symptoms and signs from both categories may be present.
Given that the left side of the heart pumps blood from the lungs to the organs, failure to do so leads to congestion of the lung veins and symptoms that reflect this, as well as reduced supply of blood to the tissues.
The predominant respiratory symptom is shortness of breath on exertion - or in severe cases at rest - and easy fatigue-ability.
Poor circulation to the body leads to dizziness, confusion and diaphoresis and cool extremities at rest.
The right side of the heart pumps blood returned from the tissues to the lungs to exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen.
Hence, failure of the right side leads to congestion of peripheral tissues.
This may lead to peripheral edema or anasarca and nocturia (frequent nighttime urination when the fluid from the legs is returned to the bloodstream).
In more severe cases, ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity) and hepatomegaly (painful enlargement of the liver) may develop.
The treatment of CHF focuses on treating the symptoms and signs of CHF and preventing the progression of disease.
If there is a reversible cause of the heart failure (e.g. infection, alcohol ingestion, anemia, thyrotoxicosis, arrhythmia, or hypertension), that should be addressed as well.
Reversible cause treatments can include exercise, eating healthy foods, reduction in salty foods, and abstinence of smoking.
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