What is restrictive cardiomyopathy?
Restrictive cardiomyopathy is a serious problem that makes your heart muscle stiff. When your heart muscle is stiff, it can't stretch to allow enough blood to enter its lower chambers, the ventricles. So blood that would normally enter the heart backs up in your circulatory system.
Most of the time, this leads to heart failure. Heart failure doesn't mean that your heart stops pumping. It means that your heart can't pump enough blood to meet your body's needs.
What causes restrictive cardiomyopathy?
Often the cause is never found. But we do know that there are a number of diseases or problems that can lead to restrictive cardiomyopathy. These include:
What are the symptoms?
You may not have any symptoms at first. Or you may have mild symptoms, such as feeling very tired or weak.
If your heart gets weaker, you will develop heart failure. When this happens, you will feel other symptoms, including:
Heart failure that suddenly gets worse is an emergency. Get medical help right away if:
When you have heart failure, keeping track of your symptoms every day is important. Call your doctor if:
How is restrictive cardiomyopathy diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and past health. He or she will want to know about recent illnesses and about heart disease in your family. Your doctor will listen to your heart and lungs and check your legs for fluid buildup.
You may also have other tests, including:
In some cases, a doctor may want to look at a small sample of heart tissue, called a biopsy, to make a definite diagnosis.
How is it treated?
Most of the time, treatment focuses on relieving symptoms, improving heart function, and helping you live longer. You may also have other treatment for the problem that is causing restrictive cardiomyopathy, such as medicines to get rid of too much iron in the heart muscle (hemochromatosis).
You will probably need to take several medicines to treat heart failure caused by restrictive cardiomyopathy. It's important to take your medicines exactly as your doctor tells you to and to keep taking them. If you don't, your heart failure could get worse.
Your doctor may suggest a mechanical device to help your heart pump blood or prevent life-threatening irregular heart rhythms. Such devices include a pacemaker, an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), or a combination pacemaker and ICD. If your condition is very bad, a heart transplant may be an option.
Self-care is an important part of your treatment. Self-care includes the things you can do every day to feel better, stay healthy, and avoid the hospital.
What can you expect with restrictive cardiomyopathy?
Most of the time, restrictive cardiomyopathy leads to heart failure. Heart failure usually gets worse over time. But treatment can slow the disease and help you feel better and live longer. If your doctor finds the cause of your restrictive cardiomyopathy, then the cause will also be treated, if possible.
Some people develop other problems, including:
If your disease is getting worse, you may want to think about making end-of-life decisions. It can be comforting to know that you will get the type of care you want.
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