Cardiomegaly, or an enlarged heart, is not a standalone disease but rather a sign of an underlying disorder. It is typically observed through imaging tests such as a chest X-ray, and further diagnostic tests are necessary to identify the specific disease causing the enlargement.
The enlargement of the heart often occurs when the heart becomes weakened, which can happen in cases of heart failure. As a result, the heart has to work harder to pump blood throughout the body.
There are various causes for an enlarged heart, including cardiac injuries or specific types of heart diseases. In certain situations, such as during pregnancy or short-term stress, the heart may temporarily enlarge. However, the enlargement can also become permanent depending on the underlying condition.
Treatment for an enlarged heart typically involves a combination of medication, medical procedures, or surgery, depending on the individual case. The specific approach will be determined by the underlying cause of the cardiomegaly and the overall health of the patient.
Some people may not have any symptoms or signs of cardiomegaly. Others may exhibit the following cardiomegaly symptoms:
- Shortness of breath upon awakening
- Breathlessness, especially when resting flat
- An abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
- Edema or swelling in the legs, feet or stomach
Early detection may make treating an enlarged heart easier. If you are worried about your heart, speak with your doctor.
If you experience any of the warning indicators of a probable heart attack, dial your local emergency number:
- Chest pain
- Pain in the back, neck, jaw, or stomach; one or both arms; or other parts of the upper body
- Severe difficulty of breathing
- Loss of consciousness
An enlarged heart, also known as cardiomegaly, can be associated with various conditions and factors. Some of the conditions commonly linked to an enlarged heart include:
- Injury caused by a heart attack. It may be more difficult for the heart to pump enough blood to the body as a result of scarring and other structural cardiac abnormalities. The stress may cause cardiac enlargement and ultimately heart failure.
- Congenital heart defect. The heart muscle can enlarge and weaken due to issues with the heart’s structure and function.
- Cardiomyopathy. The heart frequently becomes thick or hard as a result of cardiomyopathy (damage to the heart muscles). As a result, the heart may have a harder time pumping blood.
- Heart valve disease. The heart has four valves that ensure that blood is flowing properly. The heart chambers may enlarge due to blood flow obstruction brought on by disease or damage to any of the valves.
- High blood pressure. The heart may have to work harder to pump blood to the rest of the body if you have high blood pressure. The cardiac muscle may enlarge and weaken as a result of the tension.
- Pericardial effusion. On a chest X-ray, an enlarged heart can be observed due to a buildup of fluid in the sac that houses the heart.
- Pulmonary hypertension. In this condition, the lung’s arteries blood pressure is elevated. Moving blood between the lungs and the heart requires more effort from the heart. The right side of the heart may become thicker or enlarge as a result of the stress.
- Anemia. In anemia, there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells to deliver enough oxygen to the body’s tissues. In order to make up for the blood’s shortage of oxygen, the heart must pump more blood.
- Cardiac amyloidosis. Amyloid, a protein, builds up in the blood in this uncommon disease and sticks to human organs including the heart. An irreversible thickening of the heart wall results from amyloid protein deposition. To pump blood, the heart has to work harder.
- Aerobic exercise. In certain athletes, regular and sustained activity causes the heart to expand. Typically, this kind of enlarged heart is not regarded as a sickness and does not require medical attention.
- Fat around the heart. On a chest X-ray, some people’s extra body fat that surrounds the heart may be visible. No therapy is required unless there are related heart issues.
- Thyroid disorders. Heart issues, such as an enlarged heart, can result from both an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) and an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).
- Hemochromatosis. Numerous organs, including the heart, can accumulate iron. The lower left heart chamber may enlarge as a result of this.
Numerous factors can impact the risk of developing an enlarged heart. These factors include:
- Heart diseases. Heart enlargement may be caused by any heart condition, including congenital heart abnormalities and heart valve disease. To control heart disease, it’s crucial to have a healthy lifestyle and get frequent checkups.
- A family history of cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart’s muscles, can run in families in some cases. If a parent or sibling has a history of having a thick, stiff, or enlarged heart, let your healthcare practitioner know.
- High blood pressure. Having a blood pressure reading higher than 140/90 millimeters of mercury qualifies as this.
- Other factors. Some other risk factors that could encourage the development of cardiomegaly is smoking tobacco, alcohol consumption, substance abuse, and inactive lifestyle.