literally means disease of the heart muscle.
Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart
leads to impairment of the heart's ability to pump
blood, and eventually to heart failure.
The name comes from the roots
myo meaning "muscle" and
pathy meaning "disease." The known causes
of cardiomyopathy are many, and include coronary
artery disease and valvular heart disease.
Cardiomyopathy occurs in three major types:
cardiomyopathy. This type involves
enlargement of one or more of your heart's
cardiomyopathy. This form involves
thickening of your heart's muscle.
cardiomyopathy. This type results in
your heart muscle becoming more rigid.
You can take steps to reduce your risk of
developing cardiomyopathy. If you have the
condition, treatment depends on what type you have
and may include medications, implantable devices or,
in severe cases, a heart transplant.
When to seek medical advice
See your doctor for an evaluation and diagnosis if you have one or more
of the signs and symptoms associated with cardiomyopathy. Call your
doctor at once if you experience chest pain or difficulty breathing.
Because cardiomyopathy sometimes occurs in more than one family member,
talk with your close family members, including siblings and parents,
about having them examined for the presence of this condition.
Screening and diagnosis
Your doctor will conduct a physical examination and take a medical
history, including asking about your family history of heart problems.
He or she will also ask about the circumstances in which your symptoms
occur — for example, whether physical activity brings on your symptoms.
If your doctor suspects cardiomyopathy, you may need to undergo several
tests to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions. These
tests may include:
An image of your heart will show whether it's enlarged.
By using sound waves or ultrasound to noninvasively create images of
your heart, your doctor can view the size of your heart and its
motions as it beats.
In this noninvasive test, electrode patches are attached to your
skin to measure electrical impulses from your heart. An ECG can show
disturbances in the electrical activity of your heart, which may
identify areas of injury.
In this procedure, a thin tube (catheter) is threaded through your
blood vessels and into your heart, where a small sample (biopsy) of
your heart can be extracted for analysis in the laboratory.
One blood test can measure brain natriuretic peptide (BNP), a
protein produced in your heart. Your blood level of BNP rises when
your heart is subjected to the stress of congestive heart failure.
Measuring your BNP level helps your doctor differentiate congestive
heart failure from other disorders. Another blood test measures your
iron level. Having too much may indicate an iron overload disorder
called hemochromatosis. Accumulating too much iron in your heart
muscle can weaken it. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent the
progression of this serious disease.
Having cardiomyopathy may produce the following complications:
Dilated or restrictive cardiomyopathy may make you more susceptible
to blood clots in your heart. If clots enter your circulatory
system, they can obstruct the blood flow to vital organs, including
your heart and brain. If clots develop on the right side of your
heart, they may travel to your lungs. To reduce your risk, your
doctor may prescribe a blood thinner (anti-clotting medication).
Because people with dilated cardiomyopathy have an enlarged heart,
two of the heart's four valves — the mitral and tricuspid valves —
may not close properly, often leading to heart murmurs.
All forms of cardiomyopathy can lead to abnormal heart rhythms. Some
of these heart rhythms are too slow to sustain the circulation and
some are too fast to allow the heart to beat efficiently. In either
case, these abnormal heart rhythms can result in fainting or cardiac
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