Cardiomyopathy is a serious disease in which the heart muscle becomes enlarged and weak, making it harder for it to pump blood to the rest of your body.
There are four types of Cardiomyopathy:
I. Dilated Cardiomyopathy
This is the most common type, occurring mostly in adults 20 to 60.
This is a disease of the heart muscle, usually starting in the left ventricle (the main pumping chamber) The ventricle stretches and thins (dilates) and is not able to pump blood to the rest of your body like a healthy heart.
- Because of this, the inside of the chamber enlarges. The problem often spreads to the right ventricle and then to the atria.
- As the heart chambers stretch the heart muscle doesn’t contract normally and is not able to pump blood very well.
- As the heart becomes weaker heart failure can occur.
Dilated cardiomyopathy can also lead to heart valve problems, arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) and blood clots in the heart, which can lead to strokes.
Other names for Dilated Cardiomyopathy are:
- Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy. (A term used when overuse of alcohol causes the disease)
- Congestive Cardiomyopathy
- Diabetic Cardiomyopathy
- Familial Dilated Cardiomyopathy (inherited)
- Idiopathic (spontaneous, of unknown cause) Cardiomyopathy
- Ischemic cardiomyopathy (A term used when coronary heart disease, also called coronary artery disease cause the disease.
Causes Of Dilated Cardiomyopathy
- Approximately one-third of the patients have inherited it from their parents.
Some diseases, conditions, and substances may also be responsible.
- Coronary Heart Disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease, viral hepatitis and HIV
- Infections, especially viral infections that inflame the heart muscle
- Alcohol, especially if you also have a poor diet
- Complications during the last month of pregnancy or within 5 months of birth
- Certain toxins
- Certain drugs (such as Cocaine and amphetamines)
This type results in an abnormal growth or thickening of your heart muscle, especially in the left ventricle. As the muscle becomes thicker, it gets stiffer, and the size of the ventricle may shrink, interfering with the pumping action.
- Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy can develop at any age but is worse if it shows up during childhood.
- Most people who are affected have a family history of the disease. It is a common cause of sudden cardiac arrest in young people, including young athletes.
- This type of Cardiomyopathy can also affect the heart’s mitral valve, causing blood to leak backward through the valve.
This is the least common type and can happen for no apparent reason. With this type, the heart muscle becomes stiff and less flexible and is unable to expand and fill with blood between the heartbeats. Known causes may include:
A buildup of scar tissue
Buildup of abnormal proteins in the heart muscle
Chemotherapy or chest exposure to radiation.
It tends to affect older adults. The heart’s ventricles become rigid because of abnormal tissue, such as scar tissue, which replaces the normal heart muscle. Consequently, the ventricles can’t relax normally and fill with blood, and the atria become enlarged. Blood flow in the heart is reduced over time. This can lead to problems such as heart failure or arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats).
It can occur at any age, but it’s more common for older people.
This is a very rare form of cardiomyopathy and is an inherited disease.
- In this type, a person’s right ventricle is gradually replaced by a layer of fatty tissue. The most common result is cardiac “sudden death” in which the heart stops beating.
- It accounts for 1/5 of all cases of cardiac sudden death in people younger than 35. In fact, it is the leading cause of sudden death in young athletes.
Treatments for cardiomyopathy will include lifestyle changes, medications, implanted devices to correct the arrhythmias and nonsurgical procedures.
- The goal of treatment is to control symptoms, reduce complications and halt the progression of the disease.
Major risk factors include:
- A family history of cardiomyopathy or heart failure
- A disease or condition that can lead to cardiomyopathies, such as diabetes or obesity.
- Diseases such as sarcoidosis (enlargement of lymph nodes) or amyloidosis (a build-up of a starch-like protein), long-term alcoholism or long-term high blood pressure.
Signs and symptoms of cardiomyopathy are often the same as heart failure. They include:
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- Swelling of the ankles, feet or abdomen.
Other signs can include those which are related to a lack of oxygen delivery to the brain or muscles, such as:
- arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms)
- heart murmurs
- chest pain
Cardiomyopathy can be treated, however, the treatment will depend on which type of cardiomyopathy you have, and how advanced it is.
Your physician may recommend medications, surgically implanted devices to assist with the pumping functions and, in severe cases, a heart transplant.
If you believe that you or anyone you know or love has these symptoms it is important to see your primary care physician or cardiologists as soon as possible.
And be sure to call 911 if you are having severe difficulty breathing, are experiencing fainting or chest pain that lasts for more than a few minutes.
By addressing the underlying cause of the cardiomyopathy and resulting heart failure, as well as starting early treatment and medications, many people are able to lead long, productive lives.