An enlarged heart (cardiomegaly) is a symptom of another underlying condition rather than a disease in itself. It can be caused by certain factors, such as pregnancy, or by a medical condition, such as weakening of the heart muscle, coronary artery disease, heart valve abnormalities, or irregular heart rhythms.
What is an Enlarged Heart?
A heart that is larger than normal is called an enlarged heart. Depending on the cause, an enlarged heart can be temporary or permanent. It may not be able to pump blood properly, resulting in congestive heart failure. Most people with an enlarged heart will need medical care for the rest of their lives.
What are the most common symptoms of an enlarged heart?
For some people, an enlarged heart causes no signs or symptoms. The first symptoms indicating the presence of cardiomegaly are listed below:
- Breathing problems
- Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
- Fluid retention (edema)
When should you seek medical attention?
If you are concerned or in doubt about your heart health, you should consult your Apollo doctor as soon as possible. An enlarged heart is easier to treat if diagnosed early. If you have any of the following signs and symptoms, seek urgent medical attention:
- Pain in the chest
- Other parts of the upper body, such as one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or abdomen, are uncomfortable.
- shortness of breath
- pass out
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What Causes an Enlarged Heart?
An enlarged heart can occur when your heart has to work harder than normal to pump blood or when the heart muscle is damaged. Idiopathic cardiomegaly is a term used when the cause is uncertain. Heart enlargement can also be caused by birth defects, heart attacks, and rhythm problems. The following are some of the other conditions associated with an enlarged heart:
- High blood pressure – To transport blood to the rest of the body, the heart has to work harder, making the muscles bigger and thicker.
- Heart valve disease – Rheumatic fever is one of the leading causes of 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 makes it difficult to pump blood around the body.
- High Blood Pressure – Pulmonary hypertension occurs when the artery connecting the heart lungs experiences high blood pressure.
- Clogged arteries – When a piece of heart muscle dies after a heart attack, the heart has to pump harder, causing it to expand.
- Low red blood cell count – To make up for the lack of oxygen in the blood, the heart has to pump more blood.
- Thyroid Disease – An enlarged heart can be caused by both an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) and an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).
- Excess iron in the body (hemochromatosis)
- For example, amyloidosis is a rare disease 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 diseases may be ordered.
The following are some examples of diagnostic tests:
- An X-ray of the chest and heart is used to look for 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 previous 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 test, in which your heart rate is increased with medication or exercise
- Cardiac computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Cardiac catheterization and biopsy – A narrow tube (catheter) is placed in your groin and runs through your blood vessels to your heart, where a small sample (biopsy) of your heart is taken to be tested.
The force at which blood is pumping through your heart can be assessed by measuring the pressure in the chambers of your heart. During the procedure (coronary angiography), images of the heart arteries may 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 higher risk of developing an enlarged heart:
- high bloodpressure
- A family history of enlarged heart or cardiomyopathy
- People born with congenital heart disease (CHD)
- Valve diseases of the heart
- heart attack
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 around the body.
- Clots in the blood – If your heart is enlarged, you are more likely to get blood clots in the lining of your heart. Clots can obstruct blood flow to vital organs and potentially cause a heart attack or stroke if they enter your bloodstream. A pulmonary embolism is a serious condition that occurs when blood clots form on the right side of your heart and travel to your lungs.
- A murmur in the heart – Two of the heart’s four valves – the mitral valve and the tricuspid valve – may not close properly due to dilation in patients with enlarged hearts, resulting in backflow of blood. Heart murmurs are the result of this current. Heart murmurs should be checked by your doctor, even if they are not necessarily life-threatening.
- Cardiac arrest and sudden death – The rhythm of the heart can be disrupted by an enlarged heart. Heart rhythms that are too slow for blood to flow or too fast for the heart to beat effectively can cause fainting, cardiac arrest, or sudden death.
What treatment options are there?
Treatment for this condition mainly focuses on treating the disease or condition that causes cardiomegaly. Any underlying heart problems can be treated with medications prescribed by your Apollo doctor or through surgery.
- Antiarrhythmic medication that helps normalize your heart rate
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE) and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) that lower your blood pressure
- Anticoagulants help prevent blood clots.
- Beta blockers to lower blood pressure and improve heart function.
- Diuretics are used to lower sodium and water levels in the body.
- Implanting a pacemaker to keep your heart beating in a regular rhythm.
- Implanting an ICD, or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, that can get your heart back into rhythm.
- Repair or replace a damaged heart valve
- Placement of a stent or a coronary artery bypass
How do you prevent an enlarged heart?
If you have a family history of cardiomegaly, talk to your Apollo doctor about how you can reduce your risk of developing it. You can also follow these lifestyle tips to prevent heart disease:
- Eat a diet that is heart-friendly
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day
- Maintain healthy blood pressure and healthy cholesterol levels.
- quit smoking
- Get eight hours of sleep.
- Consume alcohol in moderation or not at all.
A message 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 surgical options are available and your Apollo doctor will suggest the best course of treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the prognosis for people with an enlarged heart?
The symptoms of an enlarged heart can be treated effectively. The sooner you receive treatment, the better your chances of a successful outcome. Cardiomegaly can be treated early to prevent it from getting worse and leading to more serious conditions.
- Is cardiomegaly reversible after therapy?
In certain cases, such as pregnancy and infection, cardiomegaly can be reversed after therapy. For more severe cases, it can be managed by medication or surgery.
- Does having an enlarged heart put me at risk for additional heart problems?
The health risks associated with an enlarged heart are determined by its cause. They can also differ depending on which part 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.