Symptoms & Signs
Symptoms of heart failure are most common. Usually, they develop slowly over time. However, sometimes symptoms start very suddenly and are severe. Common symptoms are:
- Shortness of breath with activity or after lying down for a while, or in infants while feeding
- Swelling of feet and ankles (in adults)
- Irregular or rapid pulse
- Fatigue, weakness, faintness
- Swelling of the abdomen (in adults)
- Loss of appetite
Other symptoms may include:
- Chest pain
- Decreased alertness or concentration
- Failure to thrive (in children)
- Low urine production
- Need to urinate at night (in adults)
Diagnosis & Tests
Cardiomyopathy is usually discovered when the doctor is examining and testing you for the cause of heart failure.
- Tapping over the heart with the fingers and feeling the area may indicate that the heart is enlarged.
- Listening to the chest with a stethoscope reveals lung crackles, heart murmur, or other abnormal sounds.
- The liver may be enlarged.
- Neck veins may be bulging.
A number of laboratory tests may be done to determine the cause:
- Antinuclear antibody (ANA), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), and other tests to diagnose autoimmune illnesses
- Antibody test to identify infections such as Lyme disease and HIV
- Serum TSH and T4 test to identify thyroid problems
Children will have:
- Poor growth
- Pale skin
- Difficulty feeding
- Weak pulses in the legs and arms
Heart enlargement, congestion of the lungs, decreased movement/functioning of the heart, or heart failure may show on these tests:
- Cardiac stress tests
- Cardiac catheterization and coronary angiography
- Chest CT scan or MRI of the heart
- Chest x-ray
- Nuclear heart scan (MUGA, RNV)
Other tests may include:
- Heart biopsy
Lab tests vary depending on the suspected cause.
Review Date : 1/23/2009
Reviewed By : David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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