Q: Hello doc, please my friend is seriously ill and the doctor said that it’s enlargement of the heart. Is it reversible? I’m very confused
Q: Please Dr., what could be the cause of heart enlargement?
A: Thanks both, for writing in.
Cardiomegaly is the medical term used to refer to an enlarged heart. This is the sign of a disease condition and could be permanent or temporary. A good example of a reversible cardiomegaly is the enlargement associated with pregnancy.
The causes of heart enlargement include:
High blood pressure….the usual suspect! This condition causes the heart muscle to work harder to pump blood thus enlarging the muscle.
Heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy): This causes stretching, thickening or stiffening of the heart muscle.
Heart valve disease: Damage to the heart valves that keep blood flowing in the right direction, can lead to heart enlargement.
Anaemia: Insufficient quantity of red blood cells to carry oxygen round the body, can lead to the heart pumping more blood to make up for the oxygen lack, leading to enlargement of the heart muscle.
Pulmonary hypertension in which there is an increased blood pressure in the artery that links the heart and lungs can lead to the heart pumping harder to move blood between both organs. As with other conditions, increasing the work of the heart, would lead to enlargement.
Other conditions like thyroid disorders and excessive iron in the body can also lead to heart enlargement.
Cardiomegaly seen in athletes and pregnant women may be viewed as normal as it is the increased physiologic demands of these groups that lead to an enlarged heart.
People who are more at risk of cardiomegaly usually have a family history of the diseases above, have had a heart attack, were born with a congenital heart defect, are hypertensive or have blocked arteries.
People with enlarged hearts may not have symptoms at the beginning but may manifest some symptoms later depending on the severity of the problem. Some of the symptoms include:
- Swelling of the ankles and legs
- Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Loss of consciousness
Treatment depends on the cause.
- Medications may be used eg those used to reduce blood pressure
- Surgeries may be utilized eg to repair heart valves
Some lifestyle modifications may also be helpful and they include:
- Eating healthier
- Exercising in moderation (be guided by your doctor)
- Avoiding alcohol
- Quitting smoking
- Managing stress
- Controlling underlying conditions like diabetes and hypertension
So, your friend needs to have a counseling session with his/her doctor to find out the cause and treatment options available to him/her. This will speak also to whether his/her condition is reversible. The lifestyle options can be started right away.
All the best.
Have a good night everyone 🙂