There are three different types of heart failure and each comes with a different set of symptoms and projected outcomes. It’s important to recognize the difference between each of them so you can understand your options and overall prognosis.
Left Ventricular Failure
The left ventricle supplies the bulk of the heart’s pumping power, making it larger than the other chambers of the heart. This also means it is essential to normal heart function. In left-sided or left ventricular failure, the left side of the heart works harder to pump the same amount of blood, resulting in heart failure.
There are two kinds of left ventricular (LV) failure:
- Reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF). It is also called systolic failure. This causes the left ventricle to lose its ability to contract normally and prevents normal blood circulation.
- Preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF). It is also called diastolic failure. Because the left ventricle losing its ability to relax, the muscle becomes stiff. This means the heart begins to fill with blood because it cannot pump the blood back out between each beat in the resting stage.
Right Ventricular Failure
The heart’s pumping action cycles out used blood which in turn returns to the heart through the right atrium into the right ventricle. When this action is done, the right ventricle pumps the blood out of the heart and back into the lungs to be replenished with oxygen before it returns to the body.
In right-sided or right ventricular (RV) failure, failure typically occurs as a result of left ventricular failure. When this happens, there is an increase in fluid pressure which transfers back into the lungs, damaging the right side of the heart. Blood begins to back up into your veins as your heart loses pumping power. This will typically cause swelling and/or congestion in the legs and ankles. It can also cause swelling within the GI tract and liver, causing ascites.
Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure requires immediate and timely medical intervention. This occurs when blood flow in and out of the heart slows and blood returning to the heart begins to back up, causing congestion in the body’s tissues. Edema is a common symptom. There is typically swelling in the ankles and legs, though it can occur in other parts of the body as well.
This buildup of blood and fluid can interfere with breathing, causing shortness of breath, typically when lying down. This is called pulmonary edema, which can cause extreme respiratory distress if untreated.