Does congestive heart failure happen quickly?

Greeneyesmom asked...

Does congestive heart failure happen all of a sudden, or does the patient know before the doctor diagnoses him that he has a heart problem?

Expert Answer

James Frank is Assistant Professor of Medicine and Director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at the V.A. Medical Center in San Francisco.

Congestive heart failure doesn't usually happen all of a sudden. The typical symptoms are fatigue and trouble breathing, which can go on for a long time and gradually get worse. That's how congestive heart failure typically occurs, but it could come on suddenly after an acute event like a heart attack or viral cardiomyopathy (infection of the heart).