Cardiomyopathy is a heart muscle disease, which makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood and deliver it throughout the body. There are several difficult types of cardiomyopathy including hypertrophic, restrictive, and dilated. However, they are in similar in that the heart muscle is abnormal, so it cannot adequately provide blood to all of the tissues and organs. Warning signs of cardiomyopathy may not be present in the early stages of the disease. It is important to watch for symptoms because as your heart weakens, cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure.
If you experience trouble breathing, especially after physical activity, then you might have cardiomyopathy. Anytime you have trouble breathing; whether you are exercising or resting, you need to seek medical help immediately. This symptom might be an underlying sign of something more serious with your heart.
Swollen Feet and Legs
Edema is a medical word for swelling. There are several causes of inflammation from injury to illness, and it can occur in many different body parts. If you have cardiomyopathy, you might get swollen ankles, legs, or feet. Edema can occur in the abdomen or veins on your neck, too. As your limbs grow large and heavy, this can be a painful symptom of the heart muscle disease.
You have probably felt a little dizzy or lightheadedness once or twice. Maybe you needed to eat, you just completed a vigorous workout, or you simply stood up too fast. However, that feeling of dizziness is also a sign of cardiomyopathy. Besides feeling dizzy, you might faint, especially during physical activity. If you experience a fainting attack, seek medical attention immediately to not only treat any problems but diagnose any underlying disease.
Irregular Heartbeats or Murmurs
Arrhythmias is the medical term for irregular heartbeats. This improper beating might be too fast or too slow. Other times, an irregular heart rate might feel like a flutter for a few seconds to a few minutes. It can pound rapidly, too. A heart murmur also deals with an abnormal heartbeat. However, heart murmurs involve sounds that are extra or unusual. This symptom may be identified as early as birth and monitored. In other cases, a heart murmur or irregular beat may not develop until later in life.
You might feel chest pain, especially after eating heavy meals or exercising, if you have cardiomyopathy. This is a broad symptom that is associated with most heart ailments. Do you find yourself coughing a lot after lying down? Maybe you do not even have a cold. That is a sign of a weakening heart. Cardiomyopathy might also cause bloating because of built-up fluids. Other symptoms of the heart muscle disease include high blood pressure, fatigue, and generalized weakness.
If you are still in the early stages of cardiomyopathy, then some basic lifestyle changes might help your condition. You can manage heart muscle disease better if you eat a healthy diet. For example, you should consume less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day. Besides cutting back on your salt intake, you should also reduce the amount of alcohol you drink or eliminate the beverage altogether. Your doctor will also recommend appropriate exercise activities. Working out regularly is important to manage a healthy weight. You should also quit smoking, try to get enough sleep at night, and manage your stress to have the healthiest heart possible.
Depending on the type and severity of cardiomyopathy, your doctor might prescribe you medication to help your heart. Some medications can relax your heart rate in an effort to slow the pumping and stabilize the rhythm. Other prescriptions might help eliminate excess fluids and stop future water retention. Blood thinners are sometimes prescribed to prevent blood clots. Reducing inflammation and treating high blood pressure are also important and require prescriptions if you have cardiomyopathy.
There are a few surgical treatment options for cardiomyopathy. Septal myectomy involves removing a part of the septum, which is a thick wall that separates the bottom two ventricles, or heart chambers. Septal ablation involves removing the same thick heart muscle wall, but this operation requires injecting alcohol into the artery through a catheter. Radiofrequency ablation surgery uses a catheter, but unlike septal ablation, there are electrodes on the tips of the tubing. The catheter is guided through the heart blood vessels. The electrodes transmit energy to destroy the damaged heart tissue that is causing the irregular heartbeat. These treatments are only effective if an irregular heartbeat causes your cardiomyopathy.
Treatment: Medical Implants
If you are at risk for serious health problems because of cardiomyopathy, your doctor might recommend an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). This surgically implanted device monitors your heart rate. If the rhythm becomes abnormal, then an electric shock will help regulate it back to a normal beat. A ventricular assist device (VAD) might be a treatment option for cardiomyopathy if you do not see any improvement from lifestyle changes or medication. This particular instrument might be used as a short-term option if you need a heart transplant. However, it is also a suitable long-term treatment depending on the severity of your symptoms. In other scenarios, a pacemaker might be the appropriate treatment. A biventricular pacemaker works between the contractions of both the right and left ventricles, which are also called heart chambers. The VAD device involves only one ventricular, or heart chamber.
Treatment: Heart Transplant
A last-resort treatment for cardiomyopathy is a heart transplant. This option is only possible if other treatments already listed from lifestyle changes and medication to surgery or medical implants are no longer effective. You and your doctor will discuss all of the risks involved and will be able to answer any questions or concerns regarding the transplant.