What is dilated cardiomyopathy? Symptoms, causes and treatment of the heart condition
Dilated cardiomyopathy is an incurable heart condition where the heart's main pumping chamber becomes enlarged and weakened. All you want to know.
Numerous heart conditions are on rise in modern times due to a mix of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors. A heart condition that has come into focus after fashion designer Rohit Bal was admitted to Gurgaon's Medanta Hospital, is dilated cardiomyopathy. It is the heart condition when heart chambers enlarge and lose their ability to contract. The disease begins in left ventricle or bottom chamber of heart and may spread to right ventricle and to the atria or top chambers, subsequently. There is no cure to dilated cardiomyopathy, but right treatment and lifestyle interventions can help a patient enjoy better quality of life. As per experts, the life expectancy would depend on severity of the condition, overall health, and response to treatment. (Also read | Fashion designer Rohit Bal critical, on ventilator at Medanta hospital: Sources)
"Dilated cardiomyopathy is a heart condition where the heart's main pumping chamber becomes enlarged and weakened. There's no complete cure, but treatments can manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Symptoms include fatigue, breathlessness, swelling, and irregular heartbeat. Ischemic cardiomyopathy occurs when the heart muscle weakens due to reduced blood flow and oxygen supply, often caused by coronary artery disease or heart attacks. The lack of blood flow damages the heart muscle, leading to impaired function and sometimes causing the heart to enlarge and weaken, leading to cardiomyopathy," says Dr Ajay Kaul, Chairman – Cardiac Sciences, Fortis Hospital, Noida.
DCM, the most common type of cardiomyopathy, is a combination of impaired contraction of myocardium (systolic dysfunction), and dilation of left or both ventricles of the heart.
Dr Javed Ali Khan, Consultant - Cardiology, Ramkrishna CARE Hospitals, Raipur says dilated cardiomyopathy may lead to impaired blood-pumping ability, affecting the heart's overall functionality.
Symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy
Dr Khan shares signs and symptoms of this condition that can eventually lead to heart failure.
Fatigue: Individuals may experience persistent fatigue, even with minimal physical activity.
Shortness of breath: Particularly noticeable during exertion or when lying down.
Swelling (Edema): Commonly observed in the legs, ankles, and abdomen.
Cardiac rhythm issues: Rapid or irregular heartbeat.
Respiratory distress: Persistent cough or wheezing.
Chest discomfort: Some individuals may report chest pain or discomfort.
Possible causes of dilated cardiomyopathy
As per Dr Khan, DCM can stem from various factors:
Genetics: Inherited genetic mutations may predispose individuals to DCM.
Infections: Viral infections affecting the heart can contribute.
Medications: Certain drugs may have cardiotoxic effects.
Alcohol abuse: Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to DCM.
Idiopathic: In some cases, the cause remains unknown.
Is there any cure for dilated cardiomyopathy?
"There's no complete cure, but treatments can manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Symptoms include fatigue, breathlessness, swelling, and irregular heartbeat. Life expectancy varies depending on various factors like the severity of the condition, overall health, and response to treatment. Some people live a relatively normal life with proper care, while others might face more challenges," says Dr Kaul.
According to Dr Khan, life expectancy in this condition can vary based on several factors:
- Severity of condition: The extent of heart dysfunction.
- Comorbidities: Presence of other health issues.
- Response to treatment: How well the individual responds to medical interventions.
"With appropriate management, lifestyle changes, and sometimes heart transplantation, individuals with DCM can live for many years," says Dr Khan.
Dr Khan says that lifestyle changes, surgery, implantable devices and medications can help in treatment.
Medications: Prescribed to manage symptoms and improve heart function. These may include beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, ARBs, diuretics, and anticoagulants.
Lifestyle changes: Emphasizing a heart-healthy lifestyle, including dietary modifications, weight management, and regular, moderate exercise.
Implantable devices: Pacemakers or defibrillators may be recommended to regulate cardiac rhythm.
Surgery: In advanced cases, heart transplantation could be considered when other treatments prove insufficient.
Medication adherence: Strict adherence to prescribed medications is crucial for symptom control.
Regular monitoring: Scheduled follow-up appointments with a cardiologist to assess progress and adjust treatment plans.
Lifestyle Modifications: Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and abstaining from tobacco and excessive alcohol.
Symptom awareness: Vigilance in recognizing and reporting any worsening symptoms, prompting timely medical attention.
"Treatment involves medications like ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, or diuretics, and sometimes devices like pacemakers or defibrillators. Lifestyle changes like a heart-healthy diet, exercise, avoiding alcohol and smoking, and regular monitoring are crucial precautions. Regular follow-ups with a cardiologist are also necessary," says Dr Kaul.
"DCM management involves a comprehensive approach encompassing medication, lifestyle adjustments, and potentially surgical interventions, all guided by close collaboration with healthcare professionals. Regular monitoring and proactive lifestyle choices contribute significantly to enhancing the quality of life for individuals with dilated cardiomyopathy," says Dr Khan.