Does congestive heart failure happen quickly?

10 answers | Last updated: Nov 17, 2016
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 Answers

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).


Community Answers

Greeneyesmom answered...
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Greeneyesmom answered...

My husband died recently (2-12-08) of conjestive heart failure. He had no symtoms of heart problems as I know of. After 43 yrs of marriage one morning (1:30-1;45) I awoke to my husbands last draw of breath. I was and still am so devestated by this especially when I have had no infomation on the subject. Would/could  you please help me in some way with this matter? Thank you,Greeneyesmom.


Ca-claire answered...

I am so sorry for your loss. My husband died from complications post open heart surgery (8/31/09), and I know how devastated I was. Please be sure to treat yourself gently.


A fellow caregiver answered...

I am so sorry to hear about what happened to Greeneyesmom! My thoughts and prayers go out to you! I have had CHF for 8 yrs. now and have been treated medically and have received a 2nd pace-maker/defib, however, my heart has weakened so much my only true solution is a heart transplant. I woke up one night in December, 2001 and could not breathe. I was lucky I didn't stop breathing altogether. I went to the local ER and they incorrectly diagnosed me as an anxiety attack! It was already about 6 am the next day so I called my personal phycian at home and I met him at his office around 7:30am, he took a chest x-ray and my vitals all pointed at CHF inwhich he called for at room at the hospital for me. I was connected to a great cardiologist who got me on the right meds, and thru I-vee, they pumped out 23 pounds of fluids. I have cherrished everyday since and now I am at the end of the rope with this damaged heart, praying for a new heart soon!
CJ-Houston, TX


A fellow caregiver answered...

3 YEARS AGO I WAS MADE TO GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM BY MY SUPERVISOR AT WORK. I JUST FELT NOT RIGHT, HEARTBURN, HOT FLASH....NOTHING I WOULD HAVE CONSIDERED MAJOR. THE HOSPITAL WAS ONLY 2 BLOCKS AWAY..NOW I WORKED 50 TO 60 HOURS A WEEK AND LOVED IT!!!! I WALKED INTO THE EMERGENCY ROOM, WROTE MY NAME AND EMERGENCY CONTACT AND WOKE UP 9 DAYS LATER. I REMEMBER NOTHING. I WAS TOLD I WAS FLAT LINED FOR 23 MINUTES AND HIT WITH THE PATTLES 15 TIMES. 3 STENTS WERE PUT IN MY HEART. I HAD 3 COMPLETELY BLOCKED ARTERIES AND ONE 90 PERCENT ONE. I HAD NO IDEA!!! NO PAIN, NO SHORTNESS OF BREATH. I DID HAVE HIGH BLOOKPRESSURE, MY FEET DID SWELL ONCE IN A WHILE, AND HIGH CHOLESTROL WHICH ALL RUN IN MY FAMILY. BUT AS I SAID I HAD NO CLUE. I AM 46 YEARS OLD. A PACEMAKER WAS THEN PUT IN AND 1 WEEK LATER I WAS SO SICK WE CALLED 911 AND I WAS TAKEN BACK TO THE HOSPITAL, ONE OF THE LEADS FROM THE PACEMAKER/DEFIB. HAD MRSA. NOW MY WHOLE BODY WAS INFECTED WITH MRSA AND I HAD 25 PERCENT OF MY HEART THAT WAS STILL FUNCTIONING. I WAS ON LIFE SUPPORT AGAIN. I WAS TOLD AT MY HOSP. THAT THERE WAS NOTHING THEY COULD DO FOR ME. I WAS FLOWN BY HELECOPTOR TO ANOTHER HOSPITAL, THERE I STAYED 3 MONTHS, BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS AND ANOTHER PACEMAKER WAS PUT ON THE OTHERSIDE OF MY CHEST. FROM THERE I WAS SENT TO SHANDS IN GAINESVILLE. I HAD ALREADY BEEN PUT ON A TRANSPLANT LIST BUT AFTER MY TRANSFUSION, MY BLOOD TYPE WAS THE SAME BUT MY COMPATIBILITY RATE WAS TOO LOW. NEEDLESS TO SAY I CAN NOT GET A TRANSPLANT. 9 MONTHS AND A STAY FOR CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE EVERY MONTH AFTER WAS NOT WHAT I CALLED QUALITY OF LIFE. I HAVE SINCE OVER THE LAST YEAR STARTED THE 0NLY OTHER OPTION I HAVE....STEM CELL RESEARCH. THE PROGRAM AT SHANDS IS WONDERFUL. DONT KNOW HOW MUCH BETTER I AM BUT I AM NO WORSE. I KNOW THAT I TAKE 28 MEDICATIONS A DAY AND HAVE TO KEEP FLUIDS AT A MINIUM. IF NOT, IT JUST COAGULATES AROUND MY HEART AND I CANT BREATH, GO INTO PANIC ATTACKS AND GO BACK INTO HOSPITAL. NOW I AM FIGHTING INSURANCE COMPANIES. MEDICARE DENIED ME HELP WITH CO PAYS AND MEDICATIONS...I MAKE TOO MUCH??? I COLLECT SOCIAL SECURITY/DISABILITY, PAY INSURANCE, CO PAYS, DEDUCTIBLES, RENT, FOOD AND BILLS..THAT LEAVES ME NOT TOO MUCH. HOW CAN I MAKE TOO MUCH? I HAVE WORKED ALL MY LIFE AND PAID FOR EVERY PENNY I AM NOW COLLECTING. I HAVE NEVER ASKED THE STATE FOR HELP UNTIL NOW. I AM DENIED. I LET SS KNOW YESTERDAY THAT I AM TIRED OF THE FIGHTING WITH THEM, I WILL STOP GOING TO DOCTORS, HOSPITALS, TAKING MEDS THAT I CANT AFFORD TO BUY ANYWAY AND LIVE AS LONG AS MY GOD LETS ME. WHEN I PASS, THEN THE STATE CAN TELL MY KIDS WHY!!!! ITS AMAZING, IF I WAS AN ILLEAGLE PERSON I WOULD NOT HAVE TO ASK FOR HELP...AUTOMATICALLY I COULD THEN GET FOOD STAMPS, FINANCIAL AID, HOUSING, DENTAL, MEDICAL, ETC. ITS AMAZING. ALL I WANT IS HELP WITH MY MEDICATIONS, I PAY MY OWN INSURANCE WHICH WONT HELP WITH MY MEDS BECAUSE I AM ON MEDICARE (WHICH ONCE AGAIN, I PAY FOR) I APOLOGIZE FOR GOING ON AND ON. BOTTOM LINE IS, TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY!!! IF I HAD KEPT UP WITH MY CHLOSTEROL, BLOOD PRESSURE, GENERAL HEALTH, I NEVER WOULD HAVE HAD THE CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE AND WOULD NOT BE IN THIS POSITION. AND IF BY CHANCE YOU DO HAVE CHF, TAKE YOUR MEDS..THEY CAN KEEP YOU ALIVE INDEFINETLY. I SPEAK FROM EXPERIENCE. NOW ALL I NEED IS SOMETHING I HAVE NEVER ASKED THE GOVERNMENT FOR, HELP. DENIED....NOW WHAT???????


Missimin answered...

My husband thought he had a sinus infection, saw the P.A.on a Friday and was given 3 types of antibiotics. He spent the weekend short of breath and confused and wouldn't go to the hospital because he said he needed time for the antibiotics to work. He died suddenly on Monday June 4th of hypertensive cardiovascular disease. It wasn't diagnosed or treated.


A fellow caregiver answered...

To the caregiver that has gone through a living hell as the result of our country's horrendous medical care or lack of. My whole hearted sympathy to you. I completely understand and agree with absolutely everything that you shared as pathetically sad as it was....... Nobody in this country should have to go through what you did. I have a husband on disability and a daughter with Down's syndrome and a son with a chromosome abnormality on disability..........and I am livid at what is happening to our medical care system...... As for myself I am without health insurance and racked up over $20,000 in medical bills and I am 60 years old. I was completely healthy up until this past year and the insanity of what is going on in this country is beyond my comprehension. So for what it is worth, there are probably many people like me out there who send heartfelt prayers your way.................God Bless you!


A fellow caregiver answered...

In 2000 I went to the ER complaining of a constant cough. I couldn't even finish a sentence without coughing at least 10 or more times. After the X ray, a doctor came in and said they we getting a bed for me, and that I had CHF. On the X-ray from my groin to my neck was completely white, all fluid. After I got the room I was given meds that made me piss over three gallons of water. After that, I've taken my meds everyday, I'm slower, but, still alive! Also enjoying my 51st birthday!


A fellow caregiver answered...

after reading these accounts of [c.h.f. ifeel better about my self was in hospital now I am taking my med and doing ok