What is Right-Sided Heart Failure?

Right-sided heart failure is a condition in which the right ventricle of the heart muscle becomes inflamed and begins to pump ineffectively. It is estimated that one in 20 people will experience right-sided heart failure within their lifetimes. Treatment can include medications, pacemakers, or surgery depending on the underlying cause of the condition.

There are various causes for right-sided heart failure. They may include left-sided heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, lung conditions, and blood clots. Symptoms are varied and can include shortness of breath, frequent urination, weakness, fainting, heart palpitations, fast heart rate, and fatigue. These symptoms may be set off by additional factors such as an infection or anemia.

Those who experience any symptoms of right-sided heart failure should see a doctor as soon as possible. Many individuals fail to get checked by a physician because symptoms of this condition are similar to those of other, less serious, conditions. There are a wide range of tests which may be used to detect the presence of heart failure. They may include urinalysis, electrocardiogram, thyroid blood tests, and X-ray, and doctors may listen to the heart using a stethoscope to determine if the heart rate is fast or irregular.


Treatment for right-sided heart failure typically includes a low sodium diet plan. There is a link between heart failure and high sodium intake, and most patients who experience this condition have not followed a low sodium diet. Sodium is found in more than just table salt, so patients should check food labels very carefully.

Additional treatments may include treatment of left-sided heart failure, bypass surgery, and medications. Sometimes drugs are used to open blood vessels so that blood flows more easily. Patients are also closely monitored for heart function, especially immediately following a diagnosis. In some cases medication and lifestyle changes alone may be enough to control right-sided heart failure. More severe cases often require surgery.

Patients with any type of heart failure are at an increased risk of heart attack and other complications. With doctor approval, lifestyle changes are generally needed to lower this risk. Regular exercise, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, avoiding sodium and saturated fat, and staying well hydrated are all recommended. Those who cannot handle strenuous exercise should start off slowly and discontinue any activity which causes discomfort. Chest pain, tightness in the chest, severe shortness of breath, pain in the left arm, and dizziness are indicative of a heart attack and should be considered a medical emergency.



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