CHF (Congestive Heart Failure) also called Heart Failure is a condition in which the heart’s ability to pump blood throughout the body is impaired. The heart beats and works to move the blood, but it is not able to keep up with the demands causing a ‘congestion’ of fluids. These fluids can be noted in the swelling of the ankles and feet and eventually the fluid is pooled in the lungs. CHF is diagnosed by various stages and classifications of function.
The CHF Stages and Functional Classes
There is no structural disorder of the heart muscle, but the patient is at a high risk for developing CHF due to existing processes or history. The patient may have high blood pressure, diabetes, CAD, history of alcohol, drug abuse or rheumatic fever, or family history of cardiomyopathy.
A structural disorder of the heart is present but the patient has never developed any symptoms of CHF. There may be valve disease, previous heart attack or cardiomyopathy present.
There is an underlying structural heart disorder and the patient either currently has CHF or has previous had CHF symptoms.
End Stage CHF requiring frequent hospitalizations, these people require intensive care with inotropic infusions, LVAD, heart transplants and usually hospice care. Death is usually impending.
Usually there are no limitations from physical activity. Ordinary activity does not cause shortness of breath, fatigue or palpitations.
The patient is comfortable at rest, but ordinary physical activity can bring on symptoms of shortness of breath, fatigue, angina or heart palpitations.
There is marked physical limitation. Most patients can be comfortable at rest but the least amount of activity can cause symptoms.
Symptoms are present even at rest; there is no ability to perform physical activity without extreme discomfort and exacerbation of the all ready present symptoms.
CHF Stages and Classifications – How they Differ
There are two different systems used to describe congestive heart failure. The first is the Stage of the condition either A, B, C or D. If you are diagnosed with CHF Stage C, even if your condition improves you are still considered to be Stage C. The other classification system is a Numeric system ranging I-IV. This classification denotes the severity of the symptoms experienced. Class I being the least amount and Class IV being quite severe. You may have CHF Stage C, class II. Stage C tells the physician that you are a patient who either currently has or had CHF and you have an underlying structural heart disease. Class II signifies that you have a slight limitation of your physical activity, you are normally comfortable at rest but simple physical activity can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, angina or palpitations. The symptom class can change as your symptoms improve or become worse.
Conditions that can Lead to CHF
Several conditions and processes, existing or in your past could lead you into the CHF Stages. If you have had a heart attack that left scar tissue in your heart which interferes with the way the heart functions you could be at an increased risk. High blood pressure, coronary artery disease (CAD), heart valve disease as a result of rheumatic fever or other reasons, congenital heart defects, myocarditis or endocarditis and cardiomyopathy impair your hearts ability to function efficiently and can all place you at a high risk for developing congestive heart failure.