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What is Cardiomyopathy?
Cardiomyopathy is a serious heart disorder where there is alteration in the structure of the myocardium or the heart muscles. The heart muscles may become weak, rigid or thick, often resulting in abnormal heart function.
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What are the Common Types of Cardiomyopathy?
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a condition where there is a thickening of the myocardium and shrinking of the size of the affected heart chamber. This generally makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood out of the heart, and forces it to work much harder. The wall between the two ventricles may also thicken and become distorted and cause leaking of the mitral valve.
Symptoms of this condition are difficulty in breathing, fainting, dizziness and chest pains. Some people may also have cardiac arrhythmias, or abnormal beating of the heart, which can lead to sudden collapse and even death. Other affected individuals may not present any symptoms at all, and may only find they have it after undergoing routine medical evaluations.
Treatment of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy often involves the use of medications which can help restore proper heart functioning. In case drug treatment fails, surgical treatment is an option. A type of nonsurgical medication for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is septal alcohol ablation which refers to the injection of alcohol into one of the heart arteries to thin out the enlarged heart muscle. Pacemaker implantation may also be done in some patients.
Restrictive cardiomyopathy is the least common cardiomyopathy type and the cause is frequently unknown. It is characterized by the rigidity or loss of elasticity of the heart muscles making it incapable of expanding properly and filling with the right volume of blood. Symptoms of restrictive cardiomyopathy include unexplained fatigue, swelling of the feet and the hands, and difficulty in breathing. This type of heart muscle disease is typical among older individuals.
Dilated, or congestive cardiomyopathy, is the most common form of heart muscle disease and is characterized by the enlargement of the right ventricle. This condition is referred to as cardiac dilation. In such condition, the heart will not be able to pump normally given its weak state, and most patients are prone to heart failure. Arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, may also occur as a result of dilated cardiomyopathy. Causes include uncontrolled hypertension, autoimmune disease, pregnancy, coronary artery disease and substance abuse, among many others.
What is cardiomyopathy treatment options for these patients? Patients with dilated cardiomyopathy will need to take anticoagulant or anti-clotting drug therapy, while antiarrhythmic drugs are often prescribed in those with arrhythmias. There is also a need to address the underlying cause. When the condition worsens, a heart transplant often appears as the last resort. The use of vasodilators or medication that relaxes the arteries are also used to lower high blood pressure common in people with dilated cardiomyopathy.