The heart is a muscle about the size of your fist. When the muscle tissue of the heart becomes diseased, you have cardiomyopathy. Cardio means relating to the heart. Myo is a combining form meaning muscle. Pathy means disease.
Cardiomyopathy weakens the heart, making it harder for the organ to pump blood around the body. Also, the heart, in its effort to pump blood, becomes enlarged.
Signs and Symptoms of Cardiomyopathy
Sometimes people in the early stages of cardiomyopathy have no symptoms. The longer a person lives with the disease, however, the more likely it is that symptoms will appear.
The most common symptoms of cardiomyopathy include:
- Being short of breath when active or even when resting
- Swelling of the legs, ankles, or feet
- Bloating of the abdomen due to the buildup of fluid
- Rapid, pounding, or fluttering heartbeats
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting
The disease sometimes is inherited. The longer it goes untreated, the worse the symptoms become. Because cardiomyopathy may be hereditary, if you are diagnosed with it your family members might want to be examined for signs of the disease.
Diagnosis and Treatment
You should visit your doctor when you have symptoms of cardiomyopathy. The doctor will talk with you about your symptoms, do a medical history, ask about family members that might have the disease, and have you take a series of tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Tests to diagnose cardiomyopathy include:
- X-ray to see if your heart is enlarged.
- Echocardiogram can also show the size of your heart. The echo part of the word echocardiogram means the test uses sound waves in providing its information. An echocardiogram can show the heart as it is beating, further helping to diagnose the disease.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG). During this exam, a technician will attach electrode patches (this does not hurt) to the skin on your chest. The electrodes will measure electric impulses your heart sends as it beats. The exam can detect abnormal electrical activity in your heart such as irregular heart rhythms. It also can indicate which part of the heart is injured.
- Cardiac catheterization and biopsy. In this test, a catheter (thin, flexible tube) is inserted into a blood vessel in the groin and threaded through the blood vessels to your heart. A tiny instrument in the catheter can take a very small sample of heart tissue—a biopsy—which is analyzed in the laboratory. Cardiac catheterization allows the doctor to measure pressure inside your heart chambers to find out how forcefully blood is being pumped through and out of the organ. An angiogram is done to produce images of the heart’s arteries and allow the doctor to see if there are any blockages.
- Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) also may be done to produce images of your heart. The technique uses radio waves and a large magnet to create the images. A cardiac MRI is often used in addition to an echocardiogram if the echocardiogram’s results are inconclusive.
- Blood tests. When you have heart failure, which is a common complication of cardiomyopathy, your blood level of a certain protein (B-type natriuretic peptide, or BNP) rises. Other blood tests can check for kidney function, anemia, thyroid problems, and iron levels. Too much iron in the blood is called hemochromatosis. This can weaken the heart muscle and lead to cardiomyopathy.
The aim of treatment for cardiomyopathy is to help control the signs and symptoms of the disease, prevent it from getting worse, and avoid complications. Both medicine and surgery are used to treat cardiomyopathy.
The type of drug given depends upon the type of cardiomyopathy you have. If drugs don’t do enough to control your disease, surgery is done. Surgically implanted devices may be used to regulate heartbeat and other surgery may be performed to cut out part of the thickened heart muscle.
Crestor® and Cardiomyopathy
Some researchers believe that the cholesterol medication Crestor® can increase the risk for cardiomyopathy. The belief is based on evidence that links the drug to muscle damage. And, since the heart is the largest muscle in the body, some believe it is at risk for injury in patients who take Crestor® and other similar drugs known as statins.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and has been treated with Crestor®, you may be eligible to seek compensation. To learn more, contact our injury attorneys today.