Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle. It can affect both young people and older adults. This disorder can have a significant impact on the general health of the individual and can lead to a variety of other heart problems. Cardiomyopathy can be inherited or acquired from other diseases. Sometimes, the cause of disease is not known.
How Cardiomyopathy Affects the Heart
Cardiomyopathy comes in several different forms. In dilated cardiomyopathy, the left ventricle of the heart is often affected first. The muscle begins to stretch and thin which cause the interior chamber to enlarge. The condition then spreads to the right ventricle and the atria of the heart as the disease progresses. In hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle cells enlarge and thicken blocking the flow of blood through the heart. This type of cardiomyopathy often causes cardiac arrest in young athletes. Restrictive cardiomyopathy affects older adults. The heart ventricles become rigid and stiff restricting the flow of blood through the heart. In arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, the right ventricle of the heart becomes damaged and replaced with scar tissue restricting blood flow.
Symptoms of Cardiomyopathy
Cardiomyopathy can have a variety of symptoms. Some people have no symptoms at all and may not be aware that they have the disease. Trouble with breathing and shortness of breath are common symptoms of this disorder. Easy fatigue is often seen in these patients. Feet, ankles, legs or abdomen may swell from fluid buildup. Dizziness and fainting can occur. Chest pain, irregular heartbeat and heart arrhythmias are often seen in patients with cardiomyopathy.
How Cardiomyopathy Is Diagnosed
To diagnose cardiomyopathy, the physician will take a medical history, including family history. He will then do a physical exam and listen to your heart to detect any irregularities in heartbeat. Blood tests, an electrocardiogram and x-rays also help to determine if cardiomyopathy is present. A Holter monitor and stress test may also be done. A cardiac catheterization can help the physician determine the pressure of blood flow in the heart. He may also do a biopsy of the heart muscle for changes in the tissue. Lifestyle changes are also recommended, including smoking cessation, a healthy diet, regular exercise and managing other health conditions.
Cardiomyopathy is treated with medications, and sometimes surgery to prevent further damage to the heart muscle. In some cases, implanted devices can help to regulate heartbeat and blood flow to limit damage.