Types of heart failure
In heart failure, the heart can no longer pump enough blood around the body. The heart muscle is either too weak or not elastic enough. Different parts of the heart may be affected too. The type of medication people use for the treatment of heart failure will depend on the type of heart failure they have.
Heart failure often only affects the left or right side of the heart, but can affect both. Doctors differentiate between three types of heart failure, accordingly:
- Left-sided heart failure: The left ventricle of the heart no longer pumps enough blood around the body. As a result, blood builds up in the pulmonary veins (the blood vessels that carry blood away from the lungs). This causes shortness of breath, trouble breathing or coughing – especially during physical activity. Left-sided heart failure is the most common type.
- Right-sided heart failure: Here the right ventricle of the heart is too weak to pump enough blood to the lungs. This causes blood to build up in the veins (the blood vessels that carry blood from the organs and tissue back to the heart). The increased pressure inside the veins can push fluid out of the veins into surrounding tissue. This leads to a build-up of fluid in the legs, or less commonly in the genital area, organs or the abdomen (belly).
- Biventricular heart failure: In biventricular heart failure, both sides of the heart are affected. This can cause the same symptoms as both left-sided and right-sided heart failure, such as shortness of breath and a build-up of fluid.
Left-sided heart failure is usually caused by coronary artery disease (CAD), a heart attack or long-term high blood pressure. Right-sided heart failure generally develops as a result of advanced left-sided heart failure, and is then treated in the same way. It is sometimes caused by high blood pressure in the lungs, an embolism in the lungs (pulmonary embolism), or certain lung diseases such as COPD.