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Cardiomegaly is a symptom characterized by enlargement of the heart and is a consequence of an underlying heart disease. As the heart begins to dilate, its ability to pump blood is severely affected.


Types of cardiomegaly

Dilated- This is the primary type of cardiomegaly wherein the walls of both left and right side of the heart become thin, which is why the heart dilates. The heart muscle also becomes weak.

Hypertrophic- The chambers and walls of the heart tend to become bulky and thick, thereby posing difficulty in normal circulation of blood.

Restrictive- This type is not very common. The heart becomes stiff and is unable to fill itself with blood. The neither expands or contracts normally


Causes of cardiomegaly

The heart might enlarge under the following conditions

  • Conditions of the heart- cardiomyopathy, accumulation of fluid in pericardium, amyloidosis, viral infection in the heart, abnormal heart valve, heart attack, coronary artery disease
  • Abnormal heart beat
  • High blood pressure, pulmonary hypertension
  • Kidney disease
  • Chronic anemia
  • Presence of too much iron in the body
  • Disorders in the thyroid gland
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs
  • Congenital and family history heart diseases


Symptoms of cardiomegaly

Lot of pressure is imposed on the heart and it works harder to pump blood. There might be or might not be any symptoms. If symptoms are present then they are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight gain especially in abdomen
  • Swelling in and around legs
  • Palpitations or missed heart beat
  • Exhaustion and unconsciousness
  • Pain or tightness in chest


When to see a doctor?

Call emergency help if you sense those aforementioned symptoms otherwise this condition might get detected only with a routine health check up


Diagnosis of cardiomegaly

Doctors take the medical history of the patient and check if there’s a family history of heart disease.

The patient has to undergo X ray and ultrasound of the heart through which the enlargement will get detected. An echocardiogram will also be performed for a more accurate analysis like measuring the thickness and size of the heart muscle.

Other diagnostic tests will be recommended to figure out the underlying cause of the cardiomegaly and also to measure the activity of the heart. The tests include electrocardiogram, blood tests (for lipid profile and infection), CT scan and MRI of chest and heart, stress test and cardiac biopsy.


Treatment of cardiomegaly

The treatment depends on the test reports, the extent of the problems and the symptoms.

Doctors usually prescribe diuretics to reduce swelling and ACE inhibitors and beta blockers to stabilize the blood pressure. Other drugs might be prescribed in combination to normalize heart beat, improve pumping action of the heart and to eliminate risks of blood clots.

Under critical conditions, doctors might consider performing a surgery for various reasons like- implantation of cardioverter-defibrillator, pacemaker, etc. to stimulate pumping action of the heart or perform a surgery on the defective heart valve and malfunctioning coronary artery.

Heart transplant is the last choice of treatment.


Lifestyle remedies for cardiomegaly

Your doctor will give you several instructions to prevent the condition and also to eliminate risk of future complication. The tips are:

  • Follow a heart smart diet- Low sodium low trans fat, cholesterol and saturated fatty acids. Increase intake of fibers, omega 3 fats and complex carbohydrates
  • Exercise half an hour daily to lose weight and improve blood circulation
  • Get over stress and anxiety- give up smoking, alcohol and other bad addictions
  • Go for routine check-up to monitor your glucose, blood pressure and lipid profile

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: October 16, 2014