Cardiomyopathy Weakens the Heart, but Treatment is Available
A condition defined by a weakened heart muscle and a potentially enlarged heart, cardiomyopathy may be caused by a number of conditions. Treatment is available and aims to minimize symptoms, prevent the condition from worsening and reduce the risk of complications, such as death or recurrent hospitalization for congestive heart failure.
There are many causes of cardiomyopathy, explains Brian Taschner, M.D., cardiologist. Some examples include coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, heart valve problems, excessive use of alcohol or certain drugs, genetic conditions, thyroid disease, viral infections and even pregnancy.
Cardiomyopathy makes it hard for the heart to pump blood and deliver it to the rest of the body, which causes symptoms, including:
- Shortness of breath at rest and with exertion
- Chest pain
- Swelling in the abdomen or legs
- Heart palpitations
- Lightheadedness, fainting or blacking out
A cardiologist evaluates the symptoms and may perform an echocardiogram to determine how weak the heart is and to confirm the diagnosis, Dr. Taschner says. From there, we develop a treatment plan, which may include a stress test or heart catheterization, use of specific medications, dietary and exercise recommendations and, possibly, device therapy.
Dr. Taschner says treatment may include medications, such as:
- Beta blockers to improve heart function
- Diuretics, which keep fluid from collecting in the body
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors to improve the heart s pumping capability
This cocktail of medication is well- documented to improve outcomes and mortality, Dr. Taschner says. Some patients who continue to have symptoms despite medical therapy may have the option of a specialized pacemaker, which can help the heart beat more synchronously. For those who are most severe, heart transplant may be an option, but that is much less common.
If you or someone you know has any of the contributing factors and experiences symptoms of cardiomyopathy, an appointment with the cardiologist ensures proper diagnosis and treatment.
Brian Taschner, M.D.
Lee Physician Group
16261 Bass Road, Suite 300
Fort Myers, FL 33908
*An outpatient department of Lee Memorial Hospital