What Is Cardiomyopathy?
Cardiomyopathy is a medical condition in which there is abnormality in the heart muscle causing symptoms. There are three types of Cardiomyopathy which are Dilated Cardiomyopathy, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, and Restrictive Cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy is a condition which makes it harder for the heart to pump and supply blood to the other parts of the body. Cardiomyopathy is one of the leading causes of heart failure. Cardiomyopathy is a perfectly treatable condition. The treatment depends on the type of Cardiomyopathy the patient has and the severity of the condition. The treatment may include medication management, mechanical devices, and in extremely acute and severe cases a heart transplant.
What Causes Cardiomyopathy?
What causes Cardiomyopathy is still a matter of ongoing research, but in some cases physicians are able to identify contributing factors leading to this condition. Some of the possible causes of Cardiomyopathy are:
- Genetic predisposition
- Chronic hypertension
- Severe damage to the muscles and tissues from a prior attack
- Chronic tachycardia
- Defect in the valves of the heart
- Thyroid disorders
- Complications of pregnancy
- Chronic alcohol abuse
- Abusing recreational drugs
- Connective tissue disorders.
What Are The Risk Factors For Cardiomyopathy?
Some of the risk factors for Cardiomyopathy are:
Family History: An individual with a family history of Cardiomyopathy will have an increased risk for having the same.
Hypertension: People with longstanding hypertension without adequate control of blood pressure are at increased risk for having Cardiomyopathy
Other Cardiac Condition: individuals with preexisting cardiac condition also are at risk for developing Cardiomyopathy
Obesity: Having a high body weight puts extra pressure on the heart and thus puts the individual at risk for developing Cardiomyopathy
Alcoholism: Chronic alcoholics are also predisposed to having Cardiomyopathy
Polysubstance Use: Individuals who abuse recreational drugs like amphetamines or cocaine are at increased risk for Cardiomyopathy
Diabetes Mellitus: Longstanding diabetics are also at increased risk for having Cardiomyopathy
Thyroid Disorders: People with thyroid problems are also predisposed to having Cardiomyopathy
What Are The Symptoms of Cardiomyopathy?
During the initial stages of Cardiomyopathy the patient may not experience any signs or symptoms at all but as and when the condition advances signs and symptoms gradually start to surface. Some of the symptoms of Cardiomyopathy are:
- Dyspnea with activity and even with rest
- Lower extremity edema
- Abdominal bloating
- Frequent cough especially with lying down
- Excessive fatigue
- Fluttering of the heart
- Chest pain
These above symptoms get worse if the condition is not treated.
How Is Cardiomyopathy Diagnosed?
In order to diagnose Cardiomyopathy the physician will start by taking a detailed history of the patient asking as to when the symptoms start and what are the factors which make the symptoms better or worse. The physician will also take a detailed family history to see if there is any evidence of a cardiac dysfunction in any of the family members. The physician will also take a social history to find out about the patient’s lifestyle and habits. Once cardiomyopathy is suspected then the following tests may be ordered in order to confirm the diagnosis:
Electrocardiogram: This test shows the heartbeat in the form of electrical impulses. This test can show whether there is any abnormality in the rhythm of the heart and whether the heart is functioning normally.
Echocardiogram: This test makes use of ultrasound waves to look at the functioning of the heart. This test can accurately identify any abnormality of the functioning of the heart.
Chest X-ray: This can reveal whether there is any enlargement of the heart or not which can rule in or rule out cardiomegaly as a cause of the heart murmur. Apart from these tests a CT scan or an MRI will also be obtained which can accurately detect presence of Cardiomyopathy.
Treadmill Stress Test: This test is conducted to find out the exercise tolerance of the patient and how much distance the patient can cover on the treadmill before the patient starts having symptoms. This is quite helpful in confirming the diagnosis and formulating a treatment plan.
Cardiac Catheterization: This is a minimally invasive test in which a catheter is inserted in the heart through the leg. This test accurately measures the pressure that is exerted on the chambers of the heart.
Cardiac MRI: This gives accurate images of the inside part of the heart and can easily identify cardiomyopathy
Genetic Testing: Since in some cases Cardiomyopathy is genetically linked hence the physician may also recommend genetic testing if there is a family history of Cardiomyopathy in the patient.
How Is Cardiomyopathy Treated?
The main aim of treatment of Cardiomyopathy is to control the symptoms of it. The treatment depends on the severity of the condition and what type of Cardiomyopathy the patient is suffering from
Dilated Cardiomyopathy: For this type of Cardiomyopathy, medications which improve functioning of the heart, improve blood flow to and from the heart, control blood pressure, controls the heart rate, removes excess fluid from the body are recommended. Furthermore, if medications do not prove to be that effective then certain devices may be implanted which help in doing the same. In some cases a pacemaker may also be inserted.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy: For this type of Cardiomyopathy medications will be given for improving heart function and stabilizing the rhythm of the heart. An ICD device may also be implanted to improve the rhythm of the heart. A surgical procedure called as septal myectomy in which a part of the septum heart muscle is removed to improve blood flow to and from the heart can be performed to treat the condition
Restrictive Cardiomyopathy: The treatment for this type of Cardiomyopathy is focused on controlling and relieving the symptoms. The physician will recommend lifestyle modifications in the form of restriction of salt and water and monitoring the weight and staying away from alcohol and tobacco. Medications may be given to control blood pressure and improve blood flow to and from the heart.
What Are The Do’s And Don’ts When Having Cardiomyopathy?
The following measures can be taken to control the symptoms of Cardiomyopathy:
- Staying away from tobacco and alcohol
- Monitor weight and if overweight losing weight should be the priority
- Maintaining a healthy and well balanced diet
- Restrict salt and water intake
- Perform daily exercises even if in moderation
- Try and manage the amount of stress in daily life.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Take all the medications as prescribed.
What Are The Complications Of Cardiomyopathy?
Some of the complications of Cardiomyopathy are:
- Heart failure: This is potentially a life threatening complication of Cardiomyopathy and hence this condition needs to be treated as soon as it is diagnosed.
- Blood Clots: Due to the heart not being able to pump in enough blood there can be incidences of blood clots.
- Valve Defects: This is another potentially serious complication of Cardiomyopathy.