The cardiac muscles are one of the strongest and most active muscles in our body as they work non-stop right from the day it is formed while in our mother’s womb, till the day we die. So it is essential that we care well for our heart, and get to know it better.
Cardiomyopathy affects the functioning of the cardiac muscles due to the thickening of the muscle tissues. However, in extreme and rare cases, the cardiac muscle tissues are replaced by scar tissues. As the disease progresses with time, it results in the weakening of the cardiac muscles resulting in abnormal electrical rhythm and slow pumping of blood through the blood vessels. This situation eventually leads to heart failures and fluid build-up in the lungs, lower limbs or the abdomen.
Cardiomyopathy may be classified into two categories: inherited and acquired cardiomyopathy. There are four main types of cardiomyopathy:
• Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)
• Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)
• Arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (ARVC)
• Restrictive cardiomyopathy (RCM)
• Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is an excessive thickening of the heart muscle without any obvious cause. Sometimes this can be inherited but not always. In other cases this type of cardiomyopathy can be caused by a persistently high blood pressure.
• Dilated Cardiomyopathy
Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) causes the heart to become dilated or enlarged. As a result the heart may become weak and is unable to pump blood efficiently around the body. In the majority of cases it’s unknown why DCM occurs, but excessive alcohol intake is known to be a cause.
• Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy
Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) is an inherited disorder where the heart muscle cells are gradually replaced by fibrous and fatty tissue. This causes the heart to dilate and its pumping action to weaken. There is no known cause for this condition, but it has a tendency to run in families.
• Restrictive cardiomyopathy
The least common of the cardiomyopathies, restrictive cardiomyopathy causes the walls of the heart muscle to become stiff. This restricts the flow of blood through the heart, leading to problems with blood flow to the rest of the body. The cause is unknown, but it has been linked to rare metabolic conditions. Recent evidence suggests that the disease may also be caused by a genetic abnormality.
Though the causes of cardiomyopathy still remain unknown, it is believed that excessive alcohol intake, unhealthy diet pattern, viral infections such as myocarditis as well as genetic abnormalities are responsible for this cardiac disorder. Common signs and symptoms of cardiomyopathy includes fatigue, shortness of breath, severe cough, swelling of limbs and subsequent weight gain due to fluid build-up, irregular heartbeats etc. Cardiomyopathy can be diagnosed with the help of an electrocardiogram (ECG), chest x-ray and an echo-cardiogram which helps in analyzing the structure and functioning of the cardiac muscles. Besides these tests, certain routine blood tests may also be performed to support the above tests further. Though a patient suffering from cardiomyopathy cannot be fully cured of his disease, the symptoms can be alleviated using medications or implantation of a pacemaker or defibrillator or cardioversion treatments to prevent complications such as arrhythmia, blood clotting and heart failure. In extreme cases, removal of thickened cardiac muscles or even heart transplantation may be considered by the cardiologist to treat the disease.
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