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Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is the most common type of non-ischemic cardiomyopathy. In this condition the heart's ability to pump blood is decreased because the heart's main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, is dilated and weak. This type can affect people of all ages but it occurs mostly in middle-aged people and is more likely to affect men. A person with dilated cardiomyopathy may have a family history of this condition. Dilated cardiomyopathy causes arrhythmia, blood clots and even death.

Different names for dilated cardiomyopathy are

  • Alcoholic cardiomyopathy: It is a disorder in which drinking too much alcohol over a long period of time weakens the heart muscle making it inefficient to pump blood.
  • Congestive cardiomyopathy: In this condition the walls of the heart chambers stretch in order to hold a greater volume of blood than normal. Congestive cardiomyopathy is considered to be the final stage of many heart diseases and they usually result in congestive heart failure.
  • Diabetic cardiomyopathy: It is a condition which leads to heart failure in diabetic patients
  • Familial dilated cardiomyopathy: It is caused due to underlying genetic abnormalities in the muscle cells of the heart.
  • Idiopathic cardiomyopathy: When cardiomyopathy occurs with no discernible cause it is known as idiopathic cardiomyopathy. It occurs when heart muscle stretches and thins without any particular cause.
  • Peripartum cardiomyopathy: It is a rare disorder in which a weakened heart is diagnosed within the final month of pregnancy or within 5 months after delivery.

Symptoms for Dilated Cardiomyopathy are

  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the legs and feet
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Blood clots due to blood flowing slowly through the body

Causes for Dilated Cardiomyopathy are

  • Genetics: Many genes are connected to dilated cardiomyopathy.
  • Birth defects: Congenital defects may cause dilated cardiomyopathy.
  • Infections. Many different types of infections caused by bacteria, viruses, can lead to dilated cardiomyopathy.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse: Long-term use of alcohol or illegal drugs, such as cocaine can result in this condition.
  • Certain cancer medications used in chemotherapy may cause dilated cardiomyopathy.
  • When exposed to some metals and toxic compounds, such as lead, mercury and cobalt, it may result in this condition.

Treatments for this condition are

  • Medications:
    • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: They lower the blood pressure and improve heart's pumping capabilities.
    • Diuretics: They lower the amount of sodium and water in the body which in turn helps in lowering the pressure in the arteries and heart.
    • Beta blockers: They are used to lower blood pressure and improve the function of the heart.
    • Digoxin: This drug increases the strength of the heart muscle contractions and also slows the heartbeat.
  • Devices used:
    • Heart pumps (left ventricular assist devices or LVADs): These are mechanical devices implanted into the abdomen or chest and is attached to a weakened heart to help it pump.
    • Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD): It is a small device which is placed under the skin just below the collarbone to send electrical signals to the heart when it goes very fast. It is also helpful in regulating heartbeat.
    • Biventricular pacemakers: It uses electrical shocks to coordinate the actions of the left and right ventricle.

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