The heart is a muscular structure. Cardiomyopathy is a condition in which the heart muscles are inflamed and enlarged in size. Because of dilatation, the heart becomes weak and is unable to function at its optimum. It cannot pump the blood with force as it should do normally. In severe cases, cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure.
There are several causes of cardiomyopathy, and one of them is due to virus infection. Cardiomyopathy is rare, but viral infection in the heart is not uncommon with a prompt and complete recovery. In rare cases, virus infection in heart progresses and causes enlargement of heart muscles.More than 20 viruses are known to damage the heart muscles and it is difficult to pinpoint one specific virus.
Breathlessness, swelling in limbs, excessive fatigue, and chest pain are some of the major symptoms of cardiomyopathy. Treatment may depend on how severe the condition is. In majority of patients, it is mild and can be treated with medication and specific life style modification.
What Are The Causes Of Viral Cardiomyopathy?
Normally there are four different types of causes known to trigger inflammation and enlargement in cardiac muscles. They are:
- Viral infection: Viral infection in the heart is one of the commonest causes for cardiomyopathy. Sometimes, the virus infiltrates cardiac muscles and damages them. The damage in most cases is minor and therefore it may remain symptomless for months and years. The damage can be permanent.
- Hereditary: The risk increases in a person who has a family history of cardiomyopathy. In such cases, all the members of the family should be checked by a heart specialist.
- Alcohol associated cardiomyopathy: Acute or chronic consumption of excess quantity of alcohol is associated with myocardial damage. The disease often affects men who consume large amount of alcohol for more than 10 years.
- Heart attack and coronary artery disease: In heart attacks, certain portion of the heart muscle becomes devoid of blood. As a result, the muscle becomes dead and dysfunctional. One or more than one attacks can substantially damage heart muscles. In this event, other functional heart muscles have to take extra load and work more vigorously. After a few years, the muscles become tired and they become weak leading to enlargement of heart.
Signs And Symptoms Of Viral Cardiomyopathy
In majority of cases, patients suffering from cardiomyopathy may not be having any symptoms. The symptoms are absent in its early stage or they may be minimal. But as the heart enlarges in size, the symptoms are noticeable. Below are important signs and symptoms of viral cardiomyopathy:
- Fatigue and weakness due to diminished cardiac output is often the presenting symptom.
- Many patients present with sudden onset of breathlessness during an episode of chest infection.
- Patient may complain of swelling in legs and face early in the morning after waking. This may prolong throughout the day as the condition advances.
- Dizziness and fainting episodes become frequent.
- Pain in the chest.
- Most patients may have swelling and bloating of abdomen due to enlarged liver.
- Palpitation and fast pulse.
- In advanced stages, hands and feet become cold and clammy.
Treatment For Viral Cardiomyopathy
Viral infection in heart is often a common health problem. Usually the infection resolves without any major treatment on its own, especially in healthy persons. However, in few patients, viral infection can cause damage to the heart muscles triggering a condition which we call viral cardiomyopathy. There is progressing enlargement of heart and the heart chambers are affected. In order to work, they have to work harder causing heart dilatation.
Depending on the severity, management is mostly directed against control of cardiac failure. Patients and their family members need counselling regarding the need for lifelong treatment and the various modalities of treatment available.
Medications are prescribed to improve the overall function of the heart. Lifestyle and diet modification is as important and it includes avoidance of strenuous physical work, discontinuing alcohol, tobacco etc. Try to do physical exercise which does not make you feel extremely breathless or tired.
If a patient is obese, he is advised to reduce weight and reduce his salt intake. Eat more vegetables and fruits. Include garlic and onion in your diet. Avoid adding excess of salt on table after the food is served.
Some people are more vulnerable to viral infections, than others. They should always remain careful and slightest with symptoms of virus infection they should seek treatment and avoid complications like viral cardiomyopathy.