Cardiomyopathy refers to diseases of the heart muscle. These diseases have a variety of causes, symptoms, and treatments. It can affect young people or older adults and is a cardiac disorder that can have a significant impact on the general health of the individual which can lead to a variety of other heart problems.
In cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle becomes enlarged, thick, or rigid. In some rare cases, the muscle tissue in the heart is replaced with scar tissue. As the condition worsens, the heart muscle becomes weaker and may become unable to pump blood through the body and maintain a normal electrical rhythm. This can lead to heart failure or arrhythmia. In turn, heart failure can cause fluid to build up in the lungs, ankles, feet, legs, or abdomen. The weakening of the heart also can cause other severe complications, such as heart valve 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.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy is the most common type of the disease. It mostly occurs in adults aged 20 to 60. Men are more likely than women to have this type of cardiomyopathy. In this type of cardiomyopathy the left ventricle of the heart is often affected first. The muscle begins to stretch and become thinner which results in the interior chamber to enlarge. The condition then spreads to the right ventricle and the atria of the heart as the disease progresses.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is very common and can affect people of any age. About 1 out of every 500 people has this type of cardiomyopathy. It affects men and women equally. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy occurs when 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 tends to mostly affect older adults. In this type of the disease, the ventricles become stiff and rigid due to abnormal tissue, such as scar tissue, replacing the normal heart muscle.
As a result, the ventricles can’t relax normally and fill with blood, and the atria become enlarged. Over time, blood flow in the heart is reduced. This can lead to problems such as heart failure or arrhythmia.
Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia (ARVD) occurs when the right ventricle of the heart becomes damaged and replaced with scar tissue restricting blood flow. This process disrupts the heart’s electrical signals and causes arrhythmias. Symptoms include palpitations and fainting after physical activity.
ARVD usually affects teens or young adults. It can cause sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) in young athletes. Fortunately, such deaths are rare.
The different types of this disease have different causes, signs and symptoms, and outcomes.
Cardiomyopathy can be acquired or inherited. “Acquired” means you aren’t born with the disease but you develop it due to another disease, condition, or factor. “Inherited” means your parents passed the gene for the disease on to you. In many cases, the cause of cardiomyopathy isn’t known.
Cardiomyopathy can affect people of all ages. However, certain age groups are more likely to have certain types of cardiomyopathy.
Symptoms of Cardiomyopathy
Cardiomyopathy can have a variety of symptoms. Some people have no signs or symptoms and need no treatment, while for others, the disease develops rapidly, symptoms are severe, and serious complications occur. 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.
Treatments for cardiomyopathy include lifestyle changes, medicines, surgery, implanted devices to correct arrhythmias, and a nonsurgical procedure. These treatments can control symptoms, reduce complications, and stop the disease from getting worse.
How Cardiomyopathy Is Diagnosed
To diagnose cardiomyopathy, Dr. Khoo will take a medical history, including family history. She will then do a physical exam and listen to your heart to detect any irregularities in heartbeat. Blood tests, an electrocardiogram and x-rays may also help to determine if cardiomyopathy is present. A Holter monitor and stress test may also be done. A cardiac catheterization can help Dr. Khoo determine the pressure of blood flow in the heart. She may also do a biopsy of the heart muscle to look for changes in heart muscle tissue.
Treatment for Cardiomyopathy
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.
Lifestyle changes are also recommended, including smoking cessation, a healthy diet, regular exercise and managing other health conditions.
We encourage you to ask as many questions as necessary until you are confident that you understand your heart condition, medications or procedures you may be considering.
In her practice as a top heart doctor in Albuquerque, Dr. Michelle Khoo wants you to be informed, comfortable and confident about your treatment plan.
Quality Healthcare is at the Heart of Everything We Do.
To schedule a consultation with Dr. Khoo call 1-505-248-1802 or click here to request an appointment online.
Khoo & Associates Cardiology and Wellness is a boutique Cardiovascular Health & Wellness practice that is focused on delivering outstanding, comprehensive and ethical cardiovascular care to patients in Albuquerque and the surrounding counties of Bernalillo, Sandoval, Torrance and Valencia in New Mexico.
Our experienced and dedicated team offers our patients the combined collective experience and knowledge necessary to ensure the highest level of patient care in two convenient office locations – Downtown Albuquerque and Rio Rancho.