Definition of cardiomyopathy: A weakening of the heart muscle that causes the heart to enlarge or thicken and obstruct the proper flow of blood to the body, heart, and lungs.
Types of Cardiomyopathy
Dilated/Congestive – An enlargement of a chamber of the heart; normally the right or the left ventricle enlarges which causes the pumping function to weaken and slow down blood flow drastically. This slows the heart cycle down and can result in the blood not receiving the oxygen that is needed to distribute to the rest of the body and can also cause fluid consumption in the lungs, legs, and ankles. Dilated Cardiomyopathy can also cause severe blood clotting which can obstruct blood flow or oxygen to the brain, lungs, and other parts of the body that require the appropriate amount of blood and oxygen to function normally. This disease commonly causes arrhythmias and abnormal heart rates. This type of Cardiomyopathy if untreated can result in sudden death.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy is an idiopathic disease; which means there is no definitive causes. Although, there are many possible causes that have not been ruled out, such as:
- Viral Infection such as the coxsackie virus
- High blood pressure
- Sleep disorder such as Sleep Apnea
- Heart valve disease
- Barth Syndrome- Only in young children
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy – The primary characteristic of the disease is a thickening of the septum between the two ventricles which obstructs the blood flow from the left ventricle. It can also result in a thickening of both ventricles and cause a leakage of the Mitral Valve which can cause a murmur.
This type is found in many athletes due to excessive training, the heart can become thickened due to the abnormal pace of the heart rate which makes it difficult for the heart to relax. High blood pressure has the same affect. Just like Dilated; there is no obvious cause, studies have shown that this disease can be genetically inherited and that it does not skip any generation.
There are symptoms that are caused by Cardiomyopathy (these are common for all Cardiomyopathies):
- Shortness of breath on exertion
- Angina Pectoris- chest pain caused by reduced blood to the heart
- Cardiac Arrhythmias- abnormal heart rhythm that can lead to sudden death
- Heart Murmur
- Oedema- most common in the ankles
Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy – The primary characteristic of this type of Cardiomyopathy is an arrhythmia that directly affects the right ventricle, where the heart muscle is replaced by fatty tissues. This fatty tissue is the cause for the heart arrhythmia. This type develops early with a thickening of the right wall but then becomes enlarged with a thinning right wall-which causes the rest of the muscle to develop fatty scar tissues. The causes are unknown but research has found that it is common in young adults and athletes. There is also a genetic link similar to hypertrophic; the only difference is this disease tends to skip generations. The rest of the heart has been found to be affected slightly due to the amount of scar tissue. The tissues can sometimes extend to the left ventricle as well. This disease is becoming more and more common.
Restrictive Cardiomyopathy – The least common type, can develop after radiation for cancer treatment. The walls become stiff and do not allow proper blood flow through the heart. This type is also idiopathic, it can be caused by various uncommon diseases. This can be hereditary.