Symptoms and Signs of Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/29/2021

Doctor's Notes on Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

Congestive heart failure (CHF) refers to a condition in which the heart is no longer able to pump blood sufficiently to meet all the body’s needs for oxygen. The inability of the heart to pump sufficiently ultimately causes fluid (mainly water) to leak from capillary blood vessels, causing many of the characteristic symptoms. Any disease that can weaken the heart can cause congestive heart failure. Some of the more common causes are: 

Fluid buildup in the lungs is known as pulmonary edema, which leads to shortness of breath. Other associated symptoms include:

  • fatigue,
  • increased urination,
  • decreased appetite, and
  • problems sleeping when reclining.

What Is the Treatment for Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)?

The treatment for congestive heart failure is to some extent dependent upon the cause of the heart failure and usually involves a combination of different medications, which may include:

  • Diuretics to control fluid buildup
  • Medications to control blood pressure, including angiotensin converting inhibitors (ACEs), beta-blockers, androgen receptor-2 blockers, or others
  • Medication to strengthen the heart’s activity such as digoxin
  • Vericiguat (Verquvo), which a type of drug known as an oral soluble guanylate cyclase (sGC) stimulator
  • Nitrate medications to control chest pain
  • Blood-thinning medications to prevent clots

Some people, depending on the cause of their CHF, may require:

  • Surgery to repair or replace heart valves
  • Coronary bypass surgery
  • Insertion of a pacemaker, ventricular assist devices
  • Heart transplantation

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.