Enlarged Heart Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
The heart of a human is a muscular organ which is about the size of a closed fist. The enlargement of the heart is not a separate condition. It is a sign of some underlying problem that is making the heart work harder.
An enlarged heart is more likely to occur in older people and sometimes it is also called cardiomegaly.
The underlying problems can be categorised into two types that can cause an enlarged heart:
Pathological – the problem associated with actual heart muscle disease
Physiological – the result of other conditions that cause the heart to overwork, such as high blood pressure (BP) or thyroid disease.
If the heart is enlarged, it cannot pump blood efficiently and it may result in congestive heart failure. Over time, it may improve, but the majority of people with this condition might need to take treatment with medications for a long time.
An enlarged heart is a result of heart muscle damage. An enlarged heart can also pump blood normally but up to a certain extent. However, the pumping ability of the heart decreases as the condition progresses.
The most common type of enlarged heart is dilated cardiomyopathy. The heart walls (ventricles) become thin & stretched. It results in an enlarged heart.
The left ventricle becomes thick and enlarges in other conditions like high blood pressure. The thickening (often called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) can also be acquired.
The most common cause of weak heart muscles is due to blockages in the blood vessels that affect the blood supply to the heart (coronary artery disease) and high blood pressure. There are some other causes, which include:
- Heart infection caused by a virus
- Abnormal valves in the heart
- During pregnancy, the heart may enlarge at the time of delivery (often called peripartum cardiomyopathy).
- A kidney disease that requires dialysis
- Drinking alcohol or using cocaine
- HIV infection (AIDS)
- An excessive amount of iron in the body (hemochromatosis).
- Rare diseases such as amyloidosis can affect your heart,
- Anemia (lower red blood cell count)
- Fluid retention around your heart (pericardial effusion)
- Inherited and genetic conditions
- Lack of physical exercise
If the cause is not known, the doctor might call it idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy.
Occasionally, an enlarged heart does not produce any symptoms. You may experience symptoms if the heart cannot pump blood well enough, such as:
- Breathing problems like shortness of breath (mainly when active or lying flat on a surface)
- Swelling of the legs
- Weight gain, especially in the midsection
- Feeling tired
- Skipped heartbeats or palpitations
Some people may never experience symptoms while others might have breath shortness that gets worse over time.
Treatment for an enlarged heart
Treatment for this condition depends on the underlying cause. If cardiomyopathy or any other heart condition is the cause of your enlarged heart, you may be prescribed to take medications, which include:
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)
- Beta blockers
These medications help to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of blood clots, lower the pressure in the arteries and heart.
Surgery or other procedures
If medications fail to improve the condition, the doctors may recommend surgery or any other medical procedures to treat the enlarged heart.
Medical devices that regulate your heartbeat
In certain cases of an enlarged heart condition like dilated cardiomyopathy, a pacemaker may be used to sync the contractions of the left and right ventricles. Patients who are at risk of serious arrhythmias may benefit from either an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) or drug therapy.
If atrial fibrillation is the main cause of an enlarged heart, then some other procedures are required to regain a regular rhythm or to prevent a fast heart beat.
Heart valve surgery
If heart valve problems are the main cause of an enlarged heart, then the problem is fixed through surgical repair or replacement of the affected valve.
Coronary bypass surgery
Your doctor may recommend coronary artery bypass surgery if your enlarged heart is caused by coronary artery disease.
Left ventricular assist device (LVAD)
Those with heart failure may require this mechanical pump implant to improve the pumping capability of a weakened heart. An LVAD may be implanted as a temporary measure to treat heart failure while you wait for a heart transplant or as a long-term treatment option for heart failure patients and for those who are not eligible for transplants.
If medications or other surgical procedures can’t fix the problem, a heart transplant might be the only option.
To know more about treatment options for an enlarged heart or having any other heart related problem contact our top heart surgeons in Hyderabad at Premier Hospital. Call +91-83747 18100 to book an appointment. Our Heart Specialists at the Premier are highly skilled and experienced in treating a wide variety of heart problems.
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Santosh Kumar Paila