Causes, Symptoms & Medications For Acute Heart Failure
Submitted by Nic on October 16, 2012
Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure (CHF), is a condition where your heart cannot supply sufficient blood to your body.
It is caused over time by the narrowing of your heart's arteries or high blood pressure which damage and weaken your heart. It is possible to treat heart failure with the help of lifestyle changes, medication and surgery. Acute heart failure describes the sudden onset of heart failure while chronic heart failure describes an ongoing condition.
Signs and symptoms of acute heart failure include:
- Sudden fluid buildup in the body
- Irregular or rapid heart beats
- A sudden shortness of breath
- Coughing up pink frothy mucus
- Chest pain in cases of heart attack
- Pain in the left arm
There are many underlying causes of acute heart failure. The sudden onset of symptoms only occurs after other conditions have damaged or weakened the heart. Some of these conditions may be present in your body for years without the appearance of any symptoms. Some of these causes include:
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Coronary heart disease
- Faulty heart valves
- Cardiomyopathy or damage to the heart muscles
- Myocarditis which is an inflammation of the heart muscle
- Heart arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats
- Severe anemia
- Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism
- Viruses that attack the heart muscle
- Severe infection
- Blood clots in the lungs
- Allergic reactions
The treatment for acute heart failure will depend on the underlying cause. For example, blockages in the coronary arteries can be cleared with the help of angioplasty or coronary bypass surgery. For many people treatment involves medications, devices that can help the heart function properly and surgery or a combination thereof.
The medications prescribed will depend on your symptoms and the underlying causes and include:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors - A type of vasodilator. Examples - enalapril (Vasotec); lisinopril (Zestril)
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers - Similar to ACE inhibitors. Examples - losartan (Cozaar); valsartan (Diovan)
- Beta blockers - Slows the heart rate and can reduce damage to the heart. Examples - metoprolol (Lopressor)
- Diuretics - Prevents fluid buildup in the body. Examples - furosemide (Lasix)
You may require a combination of these medicines as well as other heart medications to help your heart recover and pump better. You may also need supplemental oxygen therapy depending on your condition.
- Sometimes surgery is required to treat the underlying cause. Different types of surgery include:
- Coronary bypass surgery - Used to bypass severe blockages in the coronary arteries.
- Heart valve repair or replacement - Used in cases where a faulty valve is the cause of heart failure.
- Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) - A device that helps to control the heart's rhythm.
- Heart transplant - Used in cases of severe heart failure
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