What is Cardiomyopathy?
Cardiomyopathy is simply a term used to
describe a disease of the heart muscle. The name means: CARDIO - heart, MYO - muscle, PATHY - disease.
Currently it is not known how many people in Australia
have the condition, but in the UK a general estimate suggests
that perhaps one in five hundred may be affected.
The main types of cardiomyopathy are:
- Dilated or 'enlarged' heart, the most common form;
- Hypertrophic or 'thickened muscle';
- Arrhythmogenic right ventricular, a more unusual form associated with
- Restrictive or 'stiff' heart, the least common.
Warning symptoms or complaints include shortness of breath, fatigue and a
feeling of lethargy, palpitations, fainting attacks and sometimes chest
Cardiomyopathy cannot usually be completely reversed or 'cured'. However, it
can be helped or controlled by treatments which, depending on symptoms, may
include medications, pacemakers, implantable
defibrillators and, in a small number of cases, surgery. In its most advanced
stages, cardiomyopathy may be treated by heart transplantation with good
It is important to note that although the condition does vary in severity,
the majority of those diagnosed will be able to lead a relatively normal
Depending on the type of cardiomyopathy diagnosed, people may be asked by
their doctor to provide details of any family history of heart disease,
including instances of sudden death. It may be suggested that other family
members be screened, even if they appear to be free of symptoms.
In hypertrophic cardiomyopathy there is a 50% chance of the condition passing
from a parent to a child. Upon diagnosis, screening of close relatives is
always recommended. There is no way of predicting how severe the condition
may be in an affected individual. For this reason children in the family
should be screened at regular intervals.
What to do if you experience
If you have concerns, arrange to see your GP as soon as possible and provide
a comprehensive description of your symptoms - their nature, severity and frequency.
As part of the initial examination, your GP may recommend a twelve-lead
electrocardiogram (ECG) and an echocardiogram (ECHO) - an ultrasound scan of
the heart. These are both non-invasive procedures.
When cardiomyopathy is diagnosed
At this stage it is common for people to want to learn as much as possible
about their condition. Many also feel the need to share their experiences
with others who have found themselves in a similar situation. It was for
these reasons that the CMAA Ltd. was founded in 1994 - to make available
up-to-date information on cardiomyopathy and to offer mutual support when
Membership now extends throughout Australia and New Zealand, with contact persons in all states, ACT, NT and New Zealand.
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