Congestive heart failure is known as a chronic condition where the heart fails to pump blood as well as it should. In the case of a heart failure, the doctor will use various methods to diagnose if you have had one. Want to know how they do it? Here are the basics:
The diagnosis of any illness or disease begins with understanding your health/medical history:
As a first step, your doctor will ask you to describe your symptoms. What are the symptoms you are experiencing, since when have you been experiencing these and their frequency, what makes your symptoms increase, and what do you/have you done to relieve these symptoms? These are the most basic and common questions that your doctor will ask you to diagnose your condition further.
Heart failure’s most common symptom is breathlessness. Breathlessness is aggravated with physical activity, and this aggravation is based on the intensity and severity of the heart failure.
To understand your health history, your doctor might ask you about the following:
- Any diseases you are suffering from, and since when have you been suffering from them
- Any illness you had in the past, medications that you had taken
- Any surgery that you went through in the past
- Diseases you currently have. Certain diseases, such as diabetes, make you more susceptible to heart diseases.
- What are the medicines you are currently taking and what dosage?, How many times a day you are taking those medicines?
- Any history of any allergies
- Your family history: You may be asked specifically about your blood relatives: your parents and siblings. This will help find out about any diseases they are suffering from/ any diseases they had in the past. Certain diseases run in families, and this information is useful to identify if you are susceptible to having them yourself.
In addition to the questions above, your doctor may also ask you some lifestyle related questions such as
- Do you smoke? In what frequency?
- Do you consume alcohol? How much and how frequently?
It is important to let your doctor know all the facts related to your medical history and current situation. This will ensure that they are able to make an effective and early diagnosis of your condition.
After asking about your medical history, the next stage will be examination. Here, the doctor will check your vitals, including your blood pressure, and conduct a physical examination. If you are having a heart failure, your lungs are likely to be congested with fluid or there will be some fluid accumulation. With the help of a stethoscope, the doctor is able to find out if your lungs are congested or not.
The examination with a stethoscope will also help your doctor check for certain abnormal sounds/heart rhythms which may indicate a heart failure.
In addition, your doctor may examine:
- Your veins in the neck region. Veins are blood vessels that carry impure blood.
- Your abdomen/stomach and legs to check if you have edema/fluid accumulation in your body.
Post the examination stage, the doctor will conduct investigations.
The purpose of conducting investigations through the following methods is to evaluate your heart function and to detect if you have other conditions, such as a coronary artery disease, valve dysfunction, and if you have had a heart attack.
You may be asked to get the following tests done:
A chest X-Ray helps your doctor check the condition of your heart and lungs. An enlarged heart and highly congested lungs are signs of heart failure. These manifestations are visible on your X-ray and help to correctly determine if you have suffered a heart failure.
ECG: Electrocardiogram and Echocardiogram
In an Electrocardiogram, special electrodes are attached to your chest, which monitors the electrical activities of your heart. They are displayed on a monitor or printed on a paper in the form of waves. These waves help your doctor check your heart rhythms and heart beats. They also indicate if you have suffered from a heart attack in the past. A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to your heart muscles is stopped. This results in death of heart muscles. This is an important indication, as the risk of heart failure is known to be high if you have had a heart attack.
An Echocardiogram is a test that checks your ejection fraction. Ejection fraction is the volume of blood pumped by your heart. Heart failure occurs when your heart is unable to pump the required amount of blood to your body.
With the help of a Echocardiogram you doctor is able to:
- Check the severity of your heart failure
- Diagnose the type of heart failure
- Check if there are any other diseases, such as valve problems or coronary artery disease, which are causing the heart failure
A stress test is used to check how your body, particularly your heart, responds to exertions and increased activity levels. A stress test is usually conducted with the help of a stationary bike or a treadmill where the doctor will ask you to peddle the bike or walk on the treadmill while he monitors your heart rate using a ECG machine. A stress test also helps your doctor monitor your breathing, your heart rhythm, and your blood pressure to determine if you have had heart failure.
A blood test is one of the essential things that helps check if you have any diseases. Certain diseases, such as diabetes, are diagnosed and confirmed by a blood test. A person with diabetes is at a higher risk for heart failure.
If your blood test results are non-conclusive, a special blood test is carried out to check for N-terminal pro-b-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP). The presence of N-terminal pro-b-type natriuretic peptide confirms the incidence of heart diseases.
Conducting the right tests helps in the correct diagnosis of your condition. This in turn allows your doctor to set a suitable treatment plan for your disease/condition.
Congestive heart failure can seem to come out of the blue; however, there are many signs that people need to be certain about. Be sure to discuss any abnormalities or symptoms with your doctor as soon as possible.