Cardiomyopathy is a heart muscle disease where the muscle of the heart is abnormally enlarged. As a result, the ability of the heart to pump blood is weakened. This may also lead to heart failure.
The three main types of cardiomyopathy are dilated, restrictive and hypertrophic.
The term ‘dilated’ means enlarged. It is the most common heart disorder where the left ventricle gets enlarged and loses its ability to pump enough blood. It can affect people of all ages and gender, but is most commonly witnessed in middle aged men.
This disorder results in abnormal thickening of the heart muscles. This particularly affects the left ventricle, which pumps blood into the body. This condition may develop at any age, but is more often seen during childhood.
Restrictive cardiomyopathy is the least common type and can arise when the heart muscle becomes more rigid, which makes the heart unable to pump properly. It is often witnessed in aged people. It can occur without any apparent reasons or factors leading to it.
The causes of cardiomyopathy are often unknown. But in some cases, the doctors are able to identify what are the factors that can cause cardiomyopathy. Some of the possible causes are as follows:
- Genetic conditions
- Chronic rapid heart rate
- Long-term high blood pressure
- Heart valve problems
- Heart tissue damage from a previous heart attack
- Obesity, thyroid disorders or diabetes
- Illicit drug use
- Pregnancy complications
Cardiomyopathy symptoms or signs cannot be detected in the early stages. But as the condition advances or worsens, the following symptoms are usually seen:
- Bloating of the abdomen due to fluid buildup
- Breathlessness due to exertion or even at rest
- Chest pain
- Coughing while lying down
- Dizziness, lightheadedness and fainting
- Irregular heartbeats
- Swelling of the legs, ankles and feet
The doctor may conduct the following teststo confirm if the patient is suffering from cardiomyopathy:
- Chest X-ray to check if the heart is enlarged
- Echocardiogram to examine the function of the heart and the valves
- Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is done if echocardiography is not helpful in the diagnosis
- Electrocardiogram (ECG) to check for any blockages in the heartand abnormality in heart beats
- Treadmill stress test to evaluate the symptoms in case exercise aggravates abnormal heart rhythms
- Cardiac catheterization is conducted to check if the heart is forcefully pumping blood into the body
- Cardiac computerized tomography (CT scan) to assess the size and function of the heart and its valves
- Blood tests to check the thyroid, kidney and liver function and to measure the iron levels in the body
- Genetic screening may also be conducted if the condition is hereditary i.e. in parents or siblings
Cardiomyopathy treatment mainly varies with the type and severity of the of condition.
In dilated cardiomyopathy, the doctors may treat the disorder by prescribing medications to improve the function of the heart. If the condition is severe, then surgical implants may also be recommended.
In hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the doctor may cure it with medication. But in risky conditions, he may suggest implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), septal myectomy and septal ablation.
In restrictive cardiomyopathy, the doctor recommends paying attention to high blood pressure levels, monitiorsthe intake of salt and water, and advises the patient to monitor body weight daily. He may also prescribe medication to lower blood pressure.
In severe cases of cardiomyopathy, the doctors may also suggest Ventricular assist devices (VADs) or a heart transplant.