All About Cardiomyopathy
Cardiomyopathy is a heart condition in which a heart muscle is abnormal. This makes it more difficult for your heart to pump blood and deliver it to the rest of your body. There are three types of cardiomyopathy—dilated, hypertrophic and restrictive—all of which can be treated. If left untreated, cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure. Your doctor can test for cardiomyopathy through an electrocardiogram test, chest X-ray, stress test and blood test.
Signs and symptoms of cardiomyopathy:
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing with exertion or at rest
- Swelling of the ankles, feet, legs, abdomen and veins in the neck
- Bloated abdomen due to fluid build-up
- Chest pain
- Dizziness, lightheadedness and fainting
In most cases of cardiomyopathy, the cause of the condition is unknown. In some patients, however, the cause can be linked to something specific. A few reasons cardiomyopathy may occur include:
- Long-term high blood pressure
- Heart attack damage and other previous medical condition
- Pregnancy complications
- Excessive alcohol use for many years
Dilated Cardiomyopathy: This is the most common form of cardiomyopathy. The heart’s main chamber—the left ventricle—loses its forceful pumping ability. The left ventricle becomes enlarged and cannot effectively pump blood from the heart. This condition can happen to anyone, but is most common in middle-aged people and more often in men.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy: In this condition, the heart muscles thicken, making it difficult for the main chamber to pump blood. This condition can develop at any age but becomes worse if it starts in childhood. Family genetics and mutations have been linked to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Restrictive Cardiomyopathy: People with restrictive cardiomyopathy have a heart muscle that becomes rigid and less elastic, therefore making it more difficult for the heart to expand and fill with blood. This condition usually occurs without any reason and generally affects older people.
Treatments vary for each condition. For dilated and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, medications and surgically implanted devices, such as an implanted cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), are most commonly used. An ICD monitors your heart rhythm and delivers shocks when necessary. In some cases, surgery for a hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may be needed to surgically remove part of the thickened wall (septal myectomy) or inject alcohol through a long, small tube to destroy part of the thickened muscle (septal ablation).
For restrictive cardiomyopathy, treatment focuses on improving symptoms. Monitoring your salt and water intake and weight gain is very important. You may also be prescribed medication to help lower blood pressure or control abnormal heart rhythms.
At home, living a healthy lifestyle can help manage cardiomyopathy. Eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, losing weight, exercising, managing stress, and getting enough sleep are all ways to help manage your symptoms and give your heart a helping hand.
If you have difficulty breathing, faintness, or chest pain lasting more than a few minutes, seek emergency medical help right away.