Cardiomyopathy: Types, Causes, Treatment

Overview

Cardiomyopathy refers to the diseases that affect the heart muscle. This condition will make it harder for the heart to fill with blood and pump blood to the rest of your body. If cardiomyopathy worsens, it will cause heart failure, irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias, heart valve problems or other heart complications.

In the USA, about 50,000 people are affected by cardiomyopathy. Approximately, 1 in 5,439 people suffer from it.

 

Types

Cardiomyopathy can be divided into several types:

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

This type means abnormal thickening of your heart muscle occurs. Your left ventricle, which is your heart’s main pumping chamber is particularly affected. If hypertrophic cardiomyopathy becomes apparent during childhood, it is often severe. Since a large proportion of people with this type of cardiomyopathy have a family history of the disease, genetic mutations have been found to be associated with it.

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy

This type is primarily caused by coronary artery disease or heart attack. If you have dilated cardiomyopathy, your left ventricle will become enlarged and not be able to effectively pump blood out of the heart. It usually affects middle-aged men, though it can influence any group of people.

  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy

Restrictive cardiomyopathy is the rarest type of cardiomyopathy, which often occurs in older people. Due to restrictive cardiomyopathy, your heart muscle will become rigid and less elastic. As a result, it can’t expand and fill with blood between heartbeats.

  • Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia

This type is also a rare one, where the muscle in your lower right heart chamber (right ventricle) is replaced by scar tissue. It may result in heart rhythm problems. Genetic mutations are often linked to it.

  • Unclassified cardiomyopathy

Other types fall into this category.

 

Causes

In many cases, the exact cause of cardiomyopathy is unclear. But some people develop it because of another condition or inherit it from their parents.

The following factors may contribute to acquired cardiomyopathy:

  • Long-term high blood pressure
  • Heart tissue damage from a heart attack
  • Chronic rapid heart rate
  • Heart valve problems
  • Metabolic disorders, such as obesity, thyroid disease or diabetes
  • Nutritional deficiencies of essential vitamins or minerals, such as thiamin (vitamin B-1)
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Drinking too much alcohol over many years
  • Use of cocaine, amphetamines or anabolic steroids
  • Use of some chemotherapy drugs and radiation to treat cancer
  • Certain infections, especially those that inflame the heart
  • Iron buildup in your heart muscle (hemochromatosis)
  • A condition that causes inflammation and can cause lumps of cells to grow in the heart and other organs (sarcoidosis)
  • A disorder that causes the buildup of abnormal proteins (amyloidosis)
  • Connective tissue disorders

 

Risk factors

The following factors may put you at a higher risk of developing this condition:

  • Family history of cardiomyopathy, heart failure and sudden cardiac arrest
  • Long-term high blood pressure
  • Conditions that affect the heart, including a past heart attack, coronary artery disease or an infection in the heart (ischemic cardiomyopathy)
  • Obesity, which makes the heart work harder
  • Long-term alcohol abuse
  • Illicit drug use, such as cocaine, amphetamines and anabolic steroids
  • Certain chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy for cancer
  • Certain diseases, such as diabetes, an under- or overactive thyroid gland, or a disorder that causes the body to store excess iron (hemochromatosis)
  • Other conditions that affect the heart, such as a disorder that causes the buildup of abnormal proteins (amyloidosis), a disease that causes inflammation and can cause lumps of cells to grow in the heart and other organs (sarcoidosis), or connective tissue disorders

Symptoms

People may have no obvious signs or symptoms in the early stage of cardiomyopathy. However, as the condition progresses, you may experience:

  • Breathlessness with exertion or even at rest
  • Swelling of the legs, ankles and feet
  • Bloating of the abdomen due to fluid buildup
  • Cough while lying down
  • Fatigue
  • Heartbeats that feel rapid, pounding or fluttering
  • Chest discomfort or pressure
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness and fainting

Diagnosis

Based on the result of your physical examination, personal and family medical history, and when the symptoms occur, your doctor will decide whether you are suffering from cardiomyopathy. If the doctor thinks the cardiomyopathy exists, some tests may be performed to help confirm the diagnosis, including:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Echocardiogram
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Treadmill stress test
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Cardiac MRI
  • Cardiac CT scan
  • Blood tests
  • Genetic testing or screening

Treatment

Treatment of cardiomyopathy focuses on managing your signs and symptoms, preventing the condition from worsening and reducing the risk of complications. Those people who have cardiomyopathy but without any symptoms don’t need treatment. Depending on the type of cardiomyopathy you have, the severity and your age as well as overall health, treatment options vary, involving:

  • Heart-healthy lifestyle changes
  • Medicines
  • Nonsurgical procedure
  • Surgery and surgically implanted devices

Heart-healthy lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes that may benefit your condition include:

  • Heart-healthy eating
  • Aiming for a healthy weight
  • Managing stress
  • Physical activity
  • Quitting smoking

Medicines

Medicines are usually prescribed to:

  • Balance electrolytes in your body. (aldosterone blockers)
  • Keep your heart beating with a normal rhythm. (antiarrhythmics)
  • Lower your blood pressure. (beta blockers, calcium channel blockers)

Beta Blockers: Uses & Side Effects

  • Prevent blood clots from forming. (anticoagulants, blood thinner)

Anticoagulants: Uses & Types

  • Reduce inflammation. (Corticosteroids)
  • Remove excess sodium from your body. (Water pills)
  • Slow your heart rate. (Beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and digoxin)

Digoxin: Uses & Side Effects

Nonsurgical procedure

Two common nonsurgical procedures are septal ablation and radiofrequency ablation. The former one allows blood to flow freely through the ventricle, while the latter helps treat abnormal heart rhythms.

Surgically implanted devices

Some implanted devices may be placed in your heart to improve your condition, such as:

  • Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) device.

A CRT device coordinates contraction between the heart’s left and right ventricles.

  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD).

This small device is implanted in the chest or abdomen and connected to the heart with wires. It can help control life-threatening arrhythmias.

  • Left ventricular assist device (LVAD).

The function of LVAD is to help the heart pump blood to the body. It can be used as both long-term and short-term therapy treatment for people who are waiting for a heart transplant.

  • Pacemaker.

This small device is placed under the skin of your chest or abdomen to help control arrhythmias with electrical pulses.

Heart transplant

This treatment option is reserved for people whose condition has entered the last stage, which means any other treatment can’t come into effect except heart transplant. Patients’ affected heart will be replaced by a healthy heart from a deceased donor.

Keyword: cardiomyopathy; heart.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.