What is Cardiomyopathy?
Cardiomyopathy is a heart disorder that weakens your heart muscle leading to inefficient pumping of the blood to the rest of your body.
Types of Cardiomyopathy
Cardiomyopathy can be classified into the following types:
This is caused due to enlargement of the ventricles in your heart. This is common in the middle-aged population, especially men, and is usually caused due to a heart attack or coronary artery disease.
This is caused due to abnormal thickening of the heart muscle, especially the left ventricle (the left lower chamber of the heart). This may be due to a genetic mutation or an inherited condition.
This is caused due to loss of rigidity and elasticity of your heart muscle. As a result, your heart can't expand and refill with blood between heartbeats. This is common in the older population.
Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia
This commonly occurs due to genetic mutations which result in scarring of the right ventricle. This leads to the development of an abnormal heart rhythm.
Other types of cardiomyopathy that cannot be classified under any of the above categories belong to this group.
Causes of Cardiomyopathy
The different factors contributing to cardiomyopathy include:
- Heart conditions such as chronic high blood pressure, valve defects, tissue damage from a heart attack, and hemochromatosis (accumulation of iron in your heart muscle)
- Metabolic disorders such as diabetes, thyroid disease or obesity
- Lack of essential vitamins or minerals
- Infections, especially those affecting your heart
- Pregnancy complications
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Misuse of drugs like steroids, cocaine, cancer medications
- Amyloidosis: accumulation of abnormal proteins
Symptoms of Cardiomyopathy
The initial stages of cardiomyopathy remain asymptomatic. However, as the disease progresses, it may display symptoms including:
- Swelling in your legs, ankles, and feet
- Breathlessness upon exertion or at rest
- Abdominal bloating due to fluid accumulation
- Chest discomfort
- Abnormal heartbeats
- Dizziness and fainting
Complications of Cardiomyopathy
Cardiomyopathy, if left untreated, can lead to other problems such as the formation of blood clots in your heart, cardiac failure, valve problems, and even sudden death.
Diagnosis of Cardiomyopathy
Your diagnosis will be based on your symptoms and personal and family medical history. Your doctor may order diagnostic tests such as a chest X-ray, CT scan, MRI, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, coronary angiogram, treadmill stress test, cardiac catheterization, blood tests, and genetic testing or screening to confirm cardiomyopathy.
Treatment of Cardiomyopathy
Mild forms of cardiomyopathy may be treated using healthy lifestyle changes and medications. If your condition fails to improve, your cardiologist may recommend devices including:
- Pacemaker: A small device placed under the skin in your abdomen or chest to control arrhythmias using electrical impulses
- Ventricular Assist Device (VAD): helps with blood circulation through your heart
- Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICD): monitors your heart rhythm and controls abnormal rhythms through the transmission of electric shocks when needed
Ablation techniques involve burning or destruction of the abnormal heart tissue that is responsible for the abnormal heart rhythm.
Surgery may be recommended for advanced cases of cardiomyopathy. The different types of surgery for cardiomyopathy include:
- Septal Myectomy: This is an open-heart surgery and involves removal of a part of the septum or wall that divides the bottom two chambers of your heart. This improves blood flow through your heart and minimizes the backflow of blood.
- Heart Transplant: This involves replacing your failing heart with another person’s (donor’s) healthy functioning heart. Transplants are performed when all other means of treatment fail to improve your condition.
Management of Cardiomyopathy
In addition to seeking treatment from your doctor, you should follow these tips to manage your condition and avoid further complications:
- Consume a healthy diet
- Perform regular exercise
- Get sufficient sleep
- Keep stress at bay
- Stay away from alcohol
- Control your cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes