Complications of heart attack can vary from mild to life threatening. For minor heart attack there will not be any associated complications, although it can still be very serious.
A heart attack is the death of a part of the heart muscle caused by a loss of blood supply. When an artery supplying the heart muscle is blocked by a blood clot, the blood is usually cut off. Hence your heart muscle is starved of oxygen-rich blood causing damage to your heart muscle. Complications of heart attack can vary from mild to life-threatening. For minor heart attacks, there will not be any associated complications, although it can still be very serious. This is also known as an uncomplicated heart attack. A major heart attack will have a wide range of potential complications and may require extensive treatment.
Some common complications of a heart attack include:
An abnormal heartbeat such as beating too quickly, too slowly, or irregularly is known as arrhythmia. After a heart attack, the damaged muscles disrupt electrical signals used by the body to control the heart which results in developing arrhythmia.
Some arrhythmias such as tachycardia are mild and cause symptoms such as:
- chest pain
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- fatigue or tiredness
Other arrhythmias can be life-threatening, such as:
Complete heart block:
The electrical signals are unable to travel from one side of your heart to the other in this case. So your heart cannot pump blood properly or eventually stop pumping.
In this case the heart begins beating faster before going into a spasm and stops pumping altogether. This is also known as sudden cardiac arrest.
These arrhythmias are life-threatening and can be a major cause of death during the 24 to 48 hours after a heart attack.
After a heart attack, if your heart muscle is extensively damaged, your heart is unable to effectively pump blood around your body. This will result in heart failure and usually happens in the left ventricle.
Some common symptoms of heart failure include:
- shortness of breath
- swelling in your arms and legs due to a build-up of fluid
If the heart muscle has been damaged so extensively that it can no longer pump enough blood to regulate many of the body's functions, then a cardiogenic shock occurs. This is similar but more serious than heart failure.
Some of the common symptoms include:
- cold hands and feet
- mental confusion
- pale skin
- difficulty breathing
- rapid heartbeat and breathing
- decreased or no urine output
After a heart attack if the heart's muscles, walls, or valves rupture, then it is known as heart rupture. A heart rupture is an extremely serious condition and usually happens 1 to 5 days of a heart attack. Symptoms are similar to cardiogenic shock.
Some other Complications include:
- Hypoxemia where the levels of oxygen in the blood become too low.
- Pulmonary edema where fluid accumulates in and around the lungs.
- DVT or deep vein thrombosis in which the deep veins of the legs and pelvis develop blood clots that either block or interrupt the flow of blood in the vein.
- Aneurysm in which scar tissue builds up on the damaged heart wall leading to blood clots, low blood pressure, and abnormal heartbeat.
- Pericarditis where you have serious chest pain because the lining of the heart becomes inflamed.
- Loss of libido which signifies a loss of sexual drive, especially in the case of men.
- Edema in which the ankles and legs are swelled because of fluid accumulation.
- Loss of erectile function in which erectile dysfunction is generally caused by a vascular problem or depression.
After you have had a heart attack, you should be monitored for several months to check for any of these complications that may occur.