Cardiomyopathy is the technical term for acute and chronic diseases of the heart muscle. The causes of cardiomyopathy are almost unmanageable for the layperson.
What is cardiomyopathy?
Cardiomyopathy often runs for many years without symptoms. As the myocardial disease progresses, more and more symptoms appear that significantly impair the performance and well-being of the person concerned. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Cardiomyopathy.
Physicians understand cardiomyopathy to cover a large spectrum of heart muscle diseases. The term excludes the causal involvement of a heart valve defect or the pericardium.
The diverse manifestations of cardiomyopathy have led to different classifications in the scientific community. Increasingly, however, a division into 2 groups prevails:
- Primary cardiomyopathy:The underlying disease affects the heart muscle itself.
- Secondary cardiomyopathy:The underlying disease does not originate in the heart muscle, but is a regular or possible complication of disease in one or more other organs.
This definition does not take into account whether the cause is genetic or due to external factors. Both hereditary and acquired myocardial diseases belong to the spectrum of primary and secondary cardiomyopathy.
Primary cardiomyopathy is often the result of inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis). This includes the well-known influenza myocarditis and also autoimmune diseases in the course of pregnancy. Several causes, certainly also genetic factors, come together in the case of cardiac insufficiency (cardiac insufficiency). Other cardiomyopathies are based exclusively on genetic defects in the heart muscle fibers or the neuronal heart conduction system.
Secondary cardiomyopathies include clinical pictures that can be traced back to a vitamin deficiency or a deficit in trace elements. Chemotherapy, recreational toxins or heavy metals can also damage the heart muscle. Furthermore, there are diseases of the nervous system and diseases of the rheumatic type that can lead to secondary cardiomyopathies.
Metabolic diseases often result in waste products being deposited in different parts of the body. Some of the secondary cardiomyopathies also result from this. Among the hormone disorders, the over- and under-function of the thyroid gland are considered to be the triggers, diabetes is also known to be the cause of cardiomyopathy.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Cardiomyopathy often runs for many years without symptoms. As the myocardial disease progresses, more and more symptoms appear that significantly impair the performance and well-being of the person concerned. Typical symptoms of cardiomyopathy include fatigue and physical exhaustion as well as shortness of breath during physical exertion.
The shortness of breath is hardly noticed at the beginning and often subsides after a few minutes. Later, however, the breathing difficulties also occur at rest and lead to severe discomfort, panic attacks or even fear of death. This is accompanied by chest pains, which are noticed mainly after eating, after drinking alcohol and when moving, and later also occur permanently.
The lack of oxygen supply to the organs also means that fluid builds up in the legs and lungs. Cardiac arrhythmias and fainting spells can occur as the disease progresses. Other possible consequences of cardiomyopathy are pulmonary infarction, stroke and sudden cardiac death.
Those affected can recognize heart disease by the typical, usually hard and irregular heartbeats. Fluctuations in blood pressure can also occur, leading to dizziness and [[circulatory disorders9]. If the disease is recognized early and treated comprehensively, the progression of the symptoms can be prevented.
Diagnosis & History
The doctor will investigate cardiomyopathy if symptoms such as shortness of breath, easy fatigability or dizziness are present. First, an ECG shows the first abnormalities, which can also include cardiac arrhythmias.
X-rays show an enlargement of the heart in some forms of cardiomyopathy. An ultrasound examination provides insight into the beating heart (echocardiography). Finally, exploration with the cardiac catheter provides clues to the serious illness.
Acute myocarditis, for example, has good chances of recovery. As a rule, however, cardiomyopathies are progressive degenerative diseases that are associated with a decrease in pumping capacity. In the last stage, cardiac arrest (sudden cardiac death) is often the result of cardiomyopathy.
Cardiomyopathy causes problems and diseases in the heart muscle. The life expectancy of those affected is usually limited and the patient can die from the symptoms if the symptoms are not treated in good time. In most cases, the patient’s resilience drops significantly and those affected suffer from shortness of breath.
Certain activities or sporting activities are no longer possible due to cardiomyopathy. This leads to cardiac arrhythmia and, in the further course, to cardiac insufficiency. If left untreated, this can lead to the death of the patient. Likewise, heart problems often lead to water retention in the legs or stomach. Patients often suffer from dizziness or loss of consciousness. If left untreated, the patient may die suddenly.
The treatment of cardiomyopathy is causal and depends on the underlying disease. The further course of the disease depends heavily on its severity, so that it is not possible to predict a general course of the disease. In some cases, a heart transplant is also necessary so that the person concerned can continue to survive.
When should you go to the doctor?
People who experience recurrent shortness of breath or fluid retention in their legs may have cardiomyopathy. A doctor’s visit is indicated if the symptoms persist after a few days or other symptoms appear. Cardiac arrhythmias and exhaustion should be clarified quickly in order to avoid serious complications. People who also suffer from dizziness and impaired consciousness should call an ambulance or go to a hospital. The same applies to severe pain, skin changes and cramps.
Cardiomyopathy often occurs in connection with heart muscle inflammation or heart failure. A vitamin deficiency, chemotherapy or the consumption of stimulants can also damage the heart muscle. Anyone who counts themselves among these risk groups should contact the responsible doctor. The family doctor can make an initial diagnosis and will then refer the patient to a cardiologist. Depending on the cause of the disease, a specialist in internal medicine, a sports doctor or a psychologist can also be consulted.
Treatment & Therapy
Secondary cardiomyopathies can initially be treated as part of the underlying systemic disease. The aim is, for example, to compensate for metabolic disorders or detoxify in the event of intoxication. Myocarditis is treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs.
In any chronic case, the cardiologist will focus his efforts on the symptoms of the weakening heart and will initiate appropriate medication. Cardiac glycosides (digitalis) have long been proven to strengthen the heart, and the aim is also to lower blood pressure. The well-known beta blockers lead to a relief of the heart. The direct consequences of cardiomyopathy are also the focus of treatment.
Diuretic medication must be prescribed to counteract edema (water retention in the tissue). Antiarrhythmic drugs are intended to eliminate the atrial fibrillation that often occurs, sometimes only the implantation of a pacemaker can help . Anticoagulants reduce the risk of thrombosis and embolism . These are drugs that reduce the tendency for blood to clot and are used to prevent strokes in the course of cardiac arrhythmia .
If the course of a cardiomyopathy with advanced cardiac insufficiency threatens to become life-threatening, a heart transplant is often the only solution. An artificial heart or electromechanical cardiac assist systems can keep the patient alive until a suitable donor heart is available. Despite all the efforts of modern medicine, many patients ultimately die as a result of cardiomyopathy.
Outlook & Forecast
In order to achieve an improvement or even a significant slowdown in the course of the disease, the treatment and therapy plan prescribed by the doctor must be strictly adhered to.
If the cause of the disease is not genetic, the patient can improve their quality of life with targeted measures and support medical therapy. In cases in which an unhealthy lifestyle with an unbalanced and often too lavish diet is the trigger of the disease, this must be corrected as a matter of urgency. A change in diet has a positive effect on the circulatory system, relieves the heart and strengthens the immune system. This also makes it easier to achieve a weight reduction that may be necessary. The change should be accompanied by both the doctor treating you and a nutritionist so that it is tailored to your individual needs as best as possible.
In order to relieve the cardiovascular system, it is advisable to completely avoid addictive substances such as alcohol and nicotine. Coffee consumption should also be restricted and limited to a few cups a day. Regular exercise in everyday life, on the other hand, strengthens the circulation and improves your condition. Training with an ergometer or similar sports equipment is also beneficial.
With both acquired and disease-related causes, the avoidance of excessive stress is a crucial point, since this promotes the development of cardiomyopathy.
Despite the many causes, cardiomyopathy offers possibilities for prophylaxis. A moderate consumption of stimulants such as alcohol or nicotine is advisable here. Likewise, it is well known that physical activity prevents several heart diseases at the same time. Inflammation foci should be checked out by a doctor as soon as possible. This is especially true for influenza and flu-like infections. Because this sometimes results in cardiomyopathy via contagion of the heart.
In most cases, the options for follow-up care in the case of cardiomyopathy are very limited, so that those affected by this disease should ideally consult a doctor very early on, so that early treatment can be initiated. Cardiomyopathy cannot heal itself, so a doctor should be contacted at the first signs or symptoms of the disease.
Those affected are usually dependent on taking various medications with this disease. The correct dosage and also the regular intake of the medication must be observed in order to properly alleviate the symptoms. If antibiotics are taken, they must not be taken together with alcohol, otherwise their effect will be significantly reduced.
Likewise, those affected by cardiomyopathy should undergo regular checks and examinations by a doctor in order to detect further damage to the heart at an early stage. Strenuous or stressful activities should be avoided with this disease. The further course of cardiomyopathy depends very much on the time of diagnosis. In some cases, the life expectancy of the affected person is reduced by this disease.
You can do that yourself
Patients diagnosed with cardiomyopathy should take this condition seriously and be sure to follow their doctor’s treatment plans and recommendations. In many cases, there are treatment methods that can improve the clinical picture. In other cases, slowing down or stopping the progression of the disease is quite possible.
For the patients, this means that they have to consciously adapt their everyday life to the demands of the disease. Cardiomyopathy is often the result of an unhealthy lifestyle. If you have been eating incorrectly, unbalanced and mostly too lavishly for years, a doctor-guided change in diet can have a positive effect on your heart and circulatory system. Weight reduction, which is sensible in many cases, also contributes to better well-being in everyday life. Consumption toxins such as nicotine and alcohol should be avoided as far as possible, the consumption of coffee can be limited. Incorporating regular exercise into everyday life and thereby carefully maintaining the cardiovascular system and conditionStrengthening usually has a beneficial effect on health.
But these factors are not always the trigger of cardiomyopathy. It is often simply genetic and occurs despite the patient leading a healthy and active lifestyle. Excessive stress, for example at work or in the family, favors the development of the disease. Patients should be aware of these risks and avoid them as much as possible.