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Heart failure, also called congestive heart failure, is a very serious condition in which the heart muscle has been damaged. Although the heart continues to beat in heart failure, it is too weak to pump sufficient amounts of oxygen-rich blood to and from the lungs and the rest of the body. Heart failure is a common complication of heart attack and other types of heart diseases and cardiovascular diseases that damage the heart muscle. These include hypertension, heart valve disorders, arrhythmias, and cardiomyopathy. Heart failure can also result from anemia.
Any disease or condition that increases the risk of developing heart disease or cardiovascular disease also increases the risk of eventually developing heart failure as a complication. These risks include having diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. Other risk factors include being male, of African-American ancestry, and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Having a lot of long-term stress, smoking and having a family history of heart disease or cardiovascular disease are also risk factors.
There are two types of heart failure. In left-sided heart failure, the heart is not able to pump blood effectively out to the body, which results in blood backing up into the veins that carry blood from the lungs to the heart. This increases blood pressure in the lungs and leads to the accumulation of fluid in the lungs. This is called pulmonary edema and is a very serious condition, which can be fatal. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, and low oxygen levels in the blood.
In right-sided heart failure, the weak pumping of the heart allows blood to back up in the veins that lead from the body to the heart. This leads to swelling of the lower extremities (edema) and other symptoms. For more information on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of heart failure.
Making a diagnosis of heart failure includes a complete medical evaluation, medical history and physical examination. If symptoms are acute and severe, this is often done in an emergency room. The physical exam includes listening to the sounds of the heart and the lungs with a stethoscope. Certain sounds, such as a crackling or bubbling sound on the lungs, indicate congestion in the lungs and may point to a diagnosis of heart failure.
A chest X-ray is generally performed to see the size and shape of the heart and can reveal lung congestion and other conditions, such as pneumonia. Other tests may include an echocardiogram, which can evaluate the heart valves and determine how much blood the heart is able to pump.
Other testing may be done to rule-out or diagnose underlying causes of heart failure or other conditions that can mimic heart failure. For example, testing generally includes an EKG, which takes a picture of the electrical activity of the heart and can reveal abnormalities in the rhythm of the heart and damage done to the heart due to heart attack and some other forms of heart disease. A coronary angiogram may also be performed to look for blocked coronary arteries.
It is possible that a diagnosis of heart failure can be missed or delayed because the symptoms may develop gradually, be mild and can be similar to symptoms of other conditions. For more information about misdiagnosis and diseases and conditions that can mimic heart failure, refer to misdiagnosis of heart failure.
A diagnosis of heart failure may be overlooked or delayed because in some cases there are no symptoms until the condition becomes severe or because symptoms can develop gradually allowing a person to adapt to them. Some symptoms are vague and not specific to heart failure. These include weakness, fatigue, confusion, anxiety and dizziness. These types of symptoms may be attributed to ...more misdiagnosis »
The following medical conditions are some of the possible
causes of Heart failure.
There are likely to be other possible causes, so ask your doctor
about your symptoms.
Home medical tests possibly related to Heart failure:
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Review causes of more specific types of Heart failure:
Listed below are some combinations of symptoms associated with Heart failure, as listed in our database. Visit the Symptom Checker, to add and remove symptoms and research your condition.
Heart failure is not always fatal and the prognosis depends on the severity of heart failure, the underlying cause, age, general health, and coexisting disease, such as diabetes. The most effective heart failure treatment plans employ a multifaceted approach.
Some of the possible treatments listed in sources for treatment of Heart failure may include:
Review further information on Heart failure Treatments.
The following drugs, medications, substances or toxins are some of the possible
causes of Heart failure as a symptom.
Always advise your doctor of any medications or treatments you are using,
including prescription, over-the-counter, supplements, herbal or alternative treatments.
When combined, certain drugs, medications, substances or toxins may react causing Heart failure as a symptom. Always advise your doctor of any medications or treatments you are using, including prescription, over-the-counter, supplements, herbal or alternative treatments.
Some of the comorbid or associated medical symptoms for Heart failure may include these symptoms:
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Research the causes of these symptoms that are similar to, or related to, the symptom Heart failure:
Read more about causes and Heart failure deaths.
Heart attacks can be undiagnosed: Although the most severe symptoms of heart attack are hard to miss, there are varying degrees of severity. It is altogether too common for people to die from undiagnosed heart attack, or from...read more »
Heart attacks can be overdiagnosed: Although many people die from heart attacks, there are also many cases where people fear that they have a heart attack, but actually have something milder. Some of the conditions which may be causes of chest...read more »
Rare heart condition often undiagnosed: The rare heart condition called long QT syndrome can lead to episodes of palpitations and rapid heartbeat. In rare cases, this undiagnosed condition can be fatal. It should be...read more »
Heart attack can be over-diagnosed: Although heart attack is often undiagnosed, leading to fatality, it can also be over-diagnosed. People become concerned...read more »
Blood pressure cuffs misdiagnose hypertension in children: One known misdiagnosis issue with hyperension, arises in relation to the simple equipment used to test blood pressure. The "cuff" around the arm to...read more »
Hypertension misdiagnosis common in children: Hypertension is often misdiagnosed in adults (see misdiagnosis of hypertension), but its misdiagnosis is even more likely in children. Some of the symptoms of...read more »
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Other medical conditions listed in the Disease Database as possible
causes of Heart failure as a symptom include:
Heart failure occurs when the heart loses its ability to pump enough blood through the body. Usually, the loss in pumping action is a symptom of an underlying heart problem, such as coronary artery disease.
The term heart failure suggests a sudden and complete stop of heart activity. But, actually, the heart does not suddenly stop. Rather, heart failure usually develops slowly, often over years, as the heart gradually loses its pumping ability and works less efficiently. Some people may not become aware of their condition until symptoms appear years after their heart began its decline. (Source: excerpt from NHLBI, Heart Failure: NHLBI)
Heart failure means that the heart is not able to pump blood through the body as well as it should. It does NOT mean that the heart literally stops. Heart failure develops slowly over time and can have a large impact on a personís life and ability to perform daily activities of living, such as dressing, bathing, and getting around. (Source: excerpt from HEART AND CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE: NWHIC)
Heart failure occurs when the heart loses its ability to pump enough blood... (Source: excerpt from NHLBI, Heart Failure: NHLBI)
Heart failure means that the heart is not able to pump blood through the body as... (Source: excerpt from HEART AND CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE: NWHIC)
A state of subnormal or depressed cardiac output, usually seen in patients with heart failure secondary to coronary artery, hypertensive, primary myocardial, valvular, or pericardial disease.
- (Source - Diseases Database)
Inability of the heart to pump enough blood to sustain normal bodily functions
- (Source - WordNet 2.1)
Inability of the heart to pump blood at an adequate rate to fill tissue metabolic requirements or the ability to do so only at an elevated filling pressure.
- (Source - CRISP)
The list below shows some of the causes of Heart failure mentioned in various sources:
This information refers to the general prevalence and incidence of these diseases, not to how likely they are to be the actual cause of Heart failure. Of the 274 causes of Heart failure that we have listed, we have the following prevalence/incidence information:
The following list of conditions have 'Heart failure' or similar listed as a symptom in our database. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.
Select from the following alphabetical view of conditions which include a symptom of Heart failure or choose View All.
The following list of medical conditions have Heart failure or similar listed as a medical complication in our database. The distinction between a symptom and complication is not always clear, and conditions mentioning this symptom as a complication may also be relevant. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.
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This information shows analysis of the list of causes of Heart failure based
on whether certain risk factors apply to the patient:
Medical Conditions associated with Heart failure:
Symptoms related to Heart failure:
Chest pain (1053 causes), Chest tightness (166 causes), Angina (41 causes), Heart symptoms (2927 causes), Myocardial infarction (38 causes), MI, Myocardial ischemia (1 cause), Coronary artery disease (106 causes), Atherosclerosis (35 causes), Hypertension (398 causes), Angioplasty, Angiography, Valvular dysfunction, Arrhythmias (172 causes), Fibrillations, Flutter, ECG, Treadmill test, ventricular septal defect, atrial septal defect, tetrology of fallot
Doctor-patient articles related to symptoms and diagnosis:
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Medical research papers related to Heart failure include:
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