Cardiomyopathy| Types and Causes
Cardiomyopathy is a serious medical condition that centers on a weakened heart muscle. A group of disorders may result in cardiomyopathy by directly affecting the heart muscle’s structure, function and pumping ability. It appears in a variety of forms. Most commonly, it follows a heart attack or coronary artery disease, often in middle-aged men. Much more rarely, it shows up on basketball courts or football fields as young competitors with unsuspected cardiomyopathy are fatally stricken.
During pregnancy, a woman’s cardiomyopathy symptoms can masquerade as normal effects of gestation. Broken heart syndrome, or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, sometimes results from severe physical or emotional stress. Cardiomyopathy can be temporary with complete recovery, but more typically becomes a chronic condition. There may be no warning signs in early stages. As cardiomyopathy gradually worsens, you may have the following signs and symptoms:
- Shortness of breath with exertion.
- Swollen feet, ankles and legs.
- Tiredness and fatigue.
- Difficulty lying flat: needing to prop your head on pillows or waking up gasping for air.
- Dizziness and lightheadedness.
- Heart palpitations.
- Chest pain.
- Fainting or syncope.
- High blood pressure.
Types and Causes of Cardiomyopathy
1. Dilated cardiomyopathy.
Heart attack, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes are among top causes. In some cases, the condition runs in families. In other cases, causes are unknown. In dilated cardiomyopathy, the heart is weakened as the lower left ventricle – the primary pumping chamber – becomes stretched and thin, and eventually enlarged. As the problem spreads throughout the heart, it loses the ability to pump properly. Heart failure, heart valve problems, abnormal heart rhythms or arrhythmias and blood clot formation are possible complications.
2. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
In hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the ventricle walls become excessively thick and outward blood flow to the aorta may be blocked. In rare cases, the condition can trigger dangerous arrhythmias during extremely vigorous physical activity.
3. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (broken-heart syndrome).
The condition, first identified in 1990, usually arises from severe stress that weakens the heart’s left ventricle. It’s been linked to emotional events and sudden spikes in stress hormones – such as when a beloved spouse dies or even by seemingly positive occurrences like surprise parties. Drops in hormones like estrogen may contribute to takotsubo cardiomyopathy, putting older women at higher risk after menopause. In rare cases takotsubo can be fatal. Fortunately, takotsubo cardiomyopathy is usually nonlethal and temporary. Most of the time it gets better.
4. Peripartum cardiomyopathy.
This develops during pregnancy or soon after. The condition can be confusing because symptoms of heart failure are often similar to those of normal pregnancy. Normally during pregnancy, women develop swelling and shortness of breath and it’s very common. That’s why (peripartum cardiomyopathy) can be difficult to diagnose and women sometimes don’t get diagnosed right away. If the possibility of cardiomyopathy exists, a simple blood test called a BNP, which measures levels of a protein produced in the heart, can help screen women who need further evaluation.
Some women recover completely from peripartum cardiomyopathy, whereas others have permanent heart failure and can be very sick. So it’s important to have it diagnosed as soon as possible in order to be on the correct medications and to be monitored closely to see if the heart is getting better or worse after pregnancy.
5. Restricted cardiomyopathy.
In this rare form of cardiomyopathy, ventricle walls are overly rigid, preventing the heart from expanding properly during contractions.
6. Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy.
In ARVC, another rare form of cardiomyopathy, normal heart muscle tissue gradually dies and is replaced by scar and fatty tissue. Athletes are also vulnerable to this genetic form of cardiomyopathy, which can lead to dangerous arrhythmias and sudden death.
Quality of Life
Once diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, you should receive ongoing care from a cardiologist. If you have a severe cardiomyopathy, you should be seeing a heart failure specialists. People (with cardiomyopathy) can carve a life out, perhaps with some limitations, but be able to enjoy many, many aspects of life. It is a process. It’s most likely a disease that patients will have for the rest of their life and will have to be managed in some way for the rest of their life. But it should be managed as a team.