A rather drastic name for a condition which may not be immediately threatening; what is meant is that pumping action of one or both sides of heart is inefficient due to faulty valves, High Blood Pressure, coronary artery disease, congenital heart defects, etc.
Right-sided Heart Failure
Pressure of blood in main veins returning blood to heart rises, forcing fluid into organs and tissues (oedema); typical symptoms are tiredness, weakness, puffiness around ankles, legs, or abdomen (skin pits when pressed), and sometimes Abdominal Pain caused by a swollen liver.
Left-sided Heart Failure
Pressure of blood in the veins returning blood from lungs to heart rises because left side of heart is pumping inefficiently; fluid forced out of blood vessels accumulates in lungs (pulmonary oedema), causing breathlessness and wheezing, and sometimes chest pain and expectoration of frothy, blood-tinged phlegm. These are symptoms which deserve immediate medical attention, so contact Emergency Medical Services, keep person in sitting position, and give Ammonium carb. 6c (or Arsenicum 6c if this is not available) every 15 minutes for up to 6 doses.
Congestive Heart Failure
A combination of both left- and right-sided heart failure; in addition to symptoms mentioned above, person may lose appetite (see Appetite Changes) and suffer from Confusion; muscles may also begin to waste, though at first this may be masked by fluid retention. Pneumonia is a very real risk once lungs become waterlogged.
Depending on cause of heart failure, orthodox treatment options include diuretics to deal with fluid retention, and drugs to strengthen heart beat and discourage formation of blood clots; if these fail, only solution may be heart transplant, but demand far exceeds availability.
Sufferers are advised to seek constitutional treatment from an experienced homeopath. In meantime, remedies given below, and also under High Blood Pressure, or Atherosclerosis may be appropriate.
Specific remedies to be taken 4 times daily for up to 3 days
- Palpitations brought on by slightest exertion, swollen ankles, slow irregular pulse, occasional blueing of lips, sudden feeling that heart has stopped Digitalis 30c
- Symptoms of heart failure and also angina, with pain on left arm Cactus 30c
- Symptoms of heart failure and also angina, strong irregular pulse, anxiety, fear of dying Naja 30c
- Symptoms alleviated by lying on left side with head raised and drinking hot water Spigelia 30c
- Symptoms of failure accompanied by general chilliness, extremities blue and mottled, desire to be fanned Carbo veg. 30c
- Heart disease well advanced, arteriosclerosis, fluid in membranes around lungs Arsenicum iod. 30c
Self-help: Plenty of rest is important - sitting is probably better than lying down - but keep the legs moving. If breathing is difficult at night, use more pillows for support. Cut down on salt. See High Blood Pressure for more dietary suggestions.