Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

Congestive heart failure refers to the condition of the heart where it no longer is able to maintain the normal blood circulation throughout the body. In congestive heart failure, the heart becomes progressively inefficient as the volume of blood in the veins increases, causing the veins to become dilated. The lungs, liver, and intestines become congested with blood.

Causes of congestive heart failure include weakness of the heart muscle, hypertension, heart attack, chronic lung disease such as emphysema, disease of the heart valves, hyperthyroidism, certain viral illnesses, arrhythmias, severe anemia, or pulmonary embolism. Symptoms include breathlessness (as occurs when fluid accumulates in the lungs), swollen ankles (a type of edema), and weakness.

Treatment of congestive heart failure typically focuses upon reducing the volume of fluids in the circulatory system. Diuretics may be prescribed. A salt-free diet is often ordered. Additionally, digitalis may be prescribed to strengthen the heartbeat. Drugs that dilate the arteries may be taken to ease the heart's ability to pump blood. More severe or acute cases of congestive heart failure may require bed rest or hospitalization. Oxygen may be required in some cases.