Dilated cardiomyopathy is a condition that affects the left ventricle of the heart. The left ventricle is the main pumping chamber of the heart and when it is enlarged, due to dilated cardiomyopathy, it becomes difficult for the heart to pump blood throughout the body. This condition is primarily diagnosed in middle-aged patients, but it can affect people of all ages. Dilated cardiomyopathy is a common cause of heart failure and can also be the cause of arrhythmia, blot clots or sudden death. While the cause of dilated cardiomyopathy is often unknown, researchers have found certain genes that may be associated with the condition.
Symptoms of Dilated Cardiomyopathy
Dilated cardiomyopathy often goes unnoticed until it causes heart failure or arrhythmia. Symptoms may include:
- Sudden drop in exercise abilities
- Abdominal swelling of feet and ankles
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath when lying down
- Constant coughing or wheezing
- Sudden weight gain due to fluid retention
- Loss of appetite
- Heart murmur
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Diagnosis of Dilated Cardiomyopathy
Testing for dilated cardiomyopathy begins with a physical examination by the doctor. An echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to generate images of the heart, is usually conducted to verify the enlargement of the left ventricle. In certain cases, additional testing may be performed, including:
- Chest X-ray
- Blood test
- Stress test
- Diagnostic scans
- Cardiac angiogram
Treatment of Dilated Cardiomyopathy
Treatment for dilated cardiomyopathy is focused on restoring blood flow throughout the body and preventing additional damage to the heart. Medications, such as beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, digoxin, anticoagulants or diuretics are typically prescribed. Some patients may benefit from an implantable device to regulate their heartbeat. Surgical treatment may include a coronary bypass, valve replacement or repair, or heart transplant for advanced cardiomyopathy. Certain lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise, reduced salt consumption and abstaining from alcohol, can help prevent heart failure.