An enlarged heart (cardiomegaly) is a symptom of another underlying disorder rather than a disease in itself. It can be caused by certain factors, such as pregnancy, or by a medical condition, such as heart muscle weakening, coronary artery disease, heart valve abnormalities, or irregular heart rhythms.
What is an enlarged heart?
A heart that is larger than normal is referred to as an enlarged heart. Depending on the cause, an enlarged heart might be temporary or permanent. It may be unable to pump blood properly, resulting in congestive heart failure. Most of the people who have an enlarged heart require medical care for the rest of their lives.
What are the common symptoms of an enlarged heart?
For some people, an enlarged heart causes no signs or symptoms. The initial symptoms indicating the presence of cardiomegaly are listed below:
When should you seek medical attention?
If you have any concerns or suspicions about the health of your heart, you should consult your Apollo doctor at the earliest. An enlarged heart is easier to treat if diagnosed early. If you have any of the following signs and symptoms, seek emergency medical care:
- Pain in the chest
- Other parts of the upper body, such as one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach, are uncomfortable
- Shortness of breath
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What causes an enlarged heart?
An enlarged heart can occur when your heart has to work harder than usual to pump blood or when the heart muscle has been injured. Idiopathic cardiomegaly is a term used when the reason is uncertain. Heart enlargement can also be caused by birth abnormalities, heart attacks, and rhythm issues. The following are some of the other conditions linked to an enlarged heart:
- High blood pressure – To transport blood to the rest of the body, the heart has to work harder, causing the muscle to enlarge and thicken.
- Heart valve disease – Rheumatic fever is one of the major causes for the heart valve damage. They can also cause heart defects, infections and irregular heartbeats that can enlarge the heart.
- Cardiomyopathy – The condition in which the heat feels difficult to pump blood throughout the body.
- High blood pressure – Pulmonary hypertension occurs when the artery that connects the heart lungs experiences high blood pressure.
- Blocked arteries – When a piece of the heart muscle dies after a heart attack, the heart has to pump harder, causing it to expand.
- Low red blood cell count – To compensate for the lack of oxygen in the blood, the heart must pump more blood.
- Thyroid disorders – An enlarged heart can be caused by both an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) and an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).
- Excessive iron in the body (Hemochromatosis)
- Amyloidosis, for example, is a rare illness that can harm your heart.
How is an enlarged heart diagnosed?
A diagnosis begins with a discussion of your symptoms, as well as your medical history. Tests to assess cardiomegaly, and to rule out the presence of other illnesses, may be ordered.
The following are some examples of diagnostic tests:
- An X-ray of the chest and heart is used to detect any structural abnormalities
- An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to assess your heart’s pumping efficiency, determine which chambers of your heart are enlarged, examine your heart valves, look for signs of past heart attacks, and determine if you have congenital heart disease.
- An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a test that examines the electrical activity of your heart
- An exercise stress test, which involves increasing your heart rate with drugs or exercise
- Cardiac computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Cardiac catheterization and biopsy – A narrow tube (catheter) is put into your groin and run through your blood arteries to your heart, where a small sample (biopsy) of your heart is taken to be tested.
The force with which blood pumps through your heart can be assessed by measuring the pressure within the chambers of your heart. During the procedure (coronary angiography), images of the heart’s arteries might be taken to look for blockages.
What are the common risk factors that can lead to an enlarged heart?
If you have any of the following risk factors, you may be at a higher risk of developing an enlarged heart:
- High blood pressure
- A history of enlarged heart or cardiomyopathy in the family
- People born with congenital heart disease (CHD)
- Valve diseases of the heart
- Heart attacks
What are the complications associated with leaving an enlarged heart untreated?
An enlarged heart can lead to more serious complications, such as:
- Heart failure- Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle weakens and the ventricles stretch (dilate) to the point where the heart can no longer effectively pump blood throughout the body
- Clots in the blood- If your heart is enlarged, you’re more likely to develop blood clots in the lining of your heart. Clots can obstruct the blood supply to important organs and potentially cause a heart attack or stroke if they enter your bloodstream. A pulmonary embolism is a serious disorder that occurs when blood clots form on the right side of your heart and move to your lungs.
- A murmur in the heart- Two of the heart’s four valves — the mitral and tricuspid valves — may not close properly due to dilation in patients with enlarged hearts, resulting in blood backflow. Heart murmurs are the result of this flow. Heart murmurs should be checked by your doctor, even if they are not necessarily life-threatening.
- Cardiac arrest and sudden death – The heart’s beating rhythm might be disrupted by an enlarged heart. Heart rhythms that are either too slow to flow blood or too quick to allow the heart to beat effectively might cause fainting, cardiac arrest, or sudden death.
What are the treatment options available?
The treatment for this condition primarily focuses on treatment of the disease or disorder that’s causing cardiomegaly. Any underlying cardiac issues can be treated with drugs prescribed by your Apollo doctor or through surgery.
- Anti-arrhythmic medication that helps normalize your heart beat
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE) and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) that lower your blood pressure
- Anticoagulants help to prevent blood clots.
- Beta-blockers to lower blood pressure and improve the function of the heart.
- Diuretics are used to reduce sodium and water levels in the body.
- Implanting a pacemaker to help your heart beat in a regular rhythm.
- Implanting an ICD, or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, which can shock your heart back into rhythm.
- Repairing or replacing a damaged heart valve
- Placement of a stent or a coronary artery bypass
- Left ventricular assist device (LVAD). If you have heart failure, this implantable mechanical pump may be required to assist your weakening heart pump.
- Heart transplant.
How do you prevent an enlarged heart?
If you have a family history of cardiomegaly, you should talk to your Apollo doctor on how you can reduce your risk of developing it. You can also follow these lifestyle tips to prevent any sort of heart diseases:
- Eat a diet that is heart-friendly
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day
- Maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol level.
- Quit smoking
- Get eight hours of sleep.
- Consume alcohol in moderation if at all.
A Note from Apollo Hospitals/Apollo Group
An enlarged heart can be caused by several factors, such as high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. To effectively treat this condition, medication and surgery options are available and your Apollo doctor will suggest the best course of treatment for you.
Frequently Asked Question
- What is the prognosis for those who have an enlarged heart?
The symptoms of an enlarged heart can be effectively managed. The sooner you get treatment, the better are your chances of a successful outcome. Cardiomegaly can be treated early to prevent it from worsening and leading to more serious conditions.
- Is cardiomegaly reversible following therapy?
In certain instances, such as pregnancy and infection, cardiomegaly can be reversed following therapy. For more severe cases, it may be managed by medication or surgery.
- Does having an enlarged heart put me at risk for additional heart problems?
The health hazards associated with an enlarged heart are determined by what’s causing it. They can also differ depending on which region of your heart is enlarged. An enlarged heart can cause a variety of health problems, including Blood clots, heart murmurs, heart failure and even cardiac arrest.