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Cardiomyopathy: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is a serious heart disease characterised by a problem in the muscles of the heart. The heart muscles may become weak and stiff resulting in inadequate pumping of the blood from the heart.

The heart consists of two upper chambers namely the atria and two lower chambers namely the ventricles. The heart muscles lining these chambers contract and relax in rhythmic motion causing filling of blood and pumping out of blood from the ventricles. Any disorder in the heart muscles will therefore impair its filling and pumping function, resulting in grave consequences.

There are three types of cardiomyopathy namely dilated, hypertrophic and restrictive, of which dilated cardiomyopathy is the commonest.

Cardiomyopathy: Incidence, age and sex

Cardiomyopathy is an infrequent disorder in the general population. Although it can occur in any age group, it is predominantly seen in middle aged and older adults.

Signs and symptoms of cardiomyopathy: Diagnosis

The clinical features of cardiomyopathy may result from insufficient filling of the blood in the heart causing pooling of blood in other organs. Moreover, inadequate pumping out of blood from the heart may also result in severe symptoms.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is characterised by enlargement of the heart muscles resulting in weak contractions. This is the most common form of cardiomyopathy encountered in the general population. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy usually affects musculature of the left ventricle and is characterised by thickening of the muscles. Stiffness of the heart muscles resulting in inability to expand while filling of blood is typical of restrictive cardiomyopathy.

Individuals may experience shortness of breath which may exacerbate during periods of physical exertion. Other features include dizziness, episodes of blackout, angina, cardiac arrythmia or swelling in ankle and abdomen.

It is essential to consult a cardiologist when an individual experiences the above stated symptoms. Investigations like ECG, ECHO, cardiac catheterisation and endomyocardial biopsy may be needed to establish the diagnosis.

Causes and prevention of cardiomyopathy

Several causes have been postulated in causing cardiomyopathy of which longstanding alcohol consumption is the commonest. Other causes include inflammation of the heart muscles, viral infections, coronary artery disease and untreated hypertension. Some instances of cardiomyopathy like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may also be hereditary in nature. Occasionally, nutritional deficiencies of calcium, selenium or vitamins may also predispose individuals to cardiomyopathy.

Cardiomyopathy: Complications

Cardiomyopathy is a serious heart problem which may result in lifethreatening complications like angina, heart attack, heart failure and sudden death.

Cardiomyopathy: Treatment

It is essential to evaluate the underlying cause of cardiomyopathy since its effective management require elimination of the cause. Medications like beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, anti-coagulants and anti-arrythmic drugs may be prescribed to the affected individual. In rare instances, when an affected individual exhibits poor heart function, heart transplant may be considered.