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Cardiac insufficiency is a medical term that refers to a type of heart failure in which the heart is not able to pump enough blood throughout the body. The most common causes of the condition are chronic hypertension, inflammation of heart tissue, and high cholesterol. A person may experience chronic insufficiency, in which symptoms of fatigue, cough, and shortness of breath persist over time, or acute cardiac insufficiency, where severe chest pain and breathing problems come about suddenly. Heart failure is usually considered an emergency condition, and an individual should seek medical attention right away when he or she begins noticing symptoms.
Most instances of heart failure develop slowly and get worse over time. Chronic conditions can be a result of high blood pressure, cholesterol buildup in the arteries, a history of heart attacks, or a congenital heart defect. Acute cases can occur because of a severe bout of pneumonia, a heart attack, or an arrhythmia. Untreated allergic reactions, viruses, or sudden blood clots may also affect heart functioning and lead to insufficiency.
Acute cases of cardiac insufficiency are usually noticeable right away. A person might feel a sharp pain in his or her chest, and experience shortness of breath, numbing on one or both sides of the body, and sudden swelling in the extremities that results from fluid buildup. An individual with chronic heart problems typically begins to notice feelings of fatigue and weakness, a reduced capacity for exercise, worsening breathing problems, and a loss of appetite. Without treatment, both chronic and acute conditions can lead to permanent health problems or even death.
Prescription medications are usually given to patients with chronic cardiac insufficiency to help relieve symptoms and lessen the risk of heart attacks. A popular medicine for heart failure is called an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, and works by dilating blood vessels to improve blood flow and take strain off of the heart. A patient may also be prescribed beta blockers to slow and stabilize the heart rate, or other medications specifically designed to relieve underlying conditions like cholesterol buildup.
Someone who experiences acute cardiac insufficiency may need emergency surgery to prevent total heart failure. Doctors usually first try to stabilize the heart with medications, and then surgically clear congested vessels or perform an arterial bypass procedure. If the heart has become so weak that it is totally unable to function, a surgeon might implant a defibrillator or artificial heart pump to make sure that blood continues to flow properly. In the most severe circumstances, a heart transplant may be necessary to save the patient's life.