An enlarged heart is medically known as cardiomegaly. This is not considered as a disease by doctors. Rather it is believed to be a symptom of an underlying health problem. As the name suggests, the heart appears to be enlarged when images of it are seen in an X-ray. Enlargement of the heart can occur when a woman is pregnant, or when a person develops coronary artery disease, the heart gets weak, there is a problem with the heart valves or when the heart is beating abnormally.
Primarily, as enlarged heart means that the muscular wall of the heart has thickened too much or when the chambers of the heart dilate beyond their normal capacity. In either case, the heart is unable to pump blood properly and this can result in heart failure. If the heart muscle thickens, it always causes elevated blood pressure that cannot be controlled. At times, the thickening of the heart muscle can also occur when the aortic valve in the heart is too tight.
On the other hand, when the heart muscle sustains damage due to a disease, it can result in the chambers getting dilated. This is often seen in patients suffering from coronary heart disease. It can also occur when the valves in the heart have an abnormality. At times, this kind of dilation can also occur due to infection of the heart or alcohol toxicity.
When a person suffers from an enlarged heart, it can result in heart failure. In such as case, pressure develops in the lungs as well as other organs which is extremely harmful. Furthermore, the lungs get filled with fluid, making it difficult for the person to breathe. The symptoms of heart failure are dependent on the side of the heart that is affected. But some of the common symptoms include cough, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, edema of the legs, low blood pressure and fatigue. Heart failure has to be treated promptly, as it is life threatening.
An enlarged heart can be treated with the help of lifestyle changes, medication and even surgery. If the person smokes, they should stop immediately. Obese people should eat healthily and do regular exercise to lose weight. The exercise plan and diet should be planned after consulting a cardiologist. The person should stop alcohol consumption and get adequate hours of sleep.
Medical treatment of an enlarged heart makes use of medications and/or surgery. Medications that are often prescribed include diuretics to get rid of excess water and sodium in the body; ACE inhibitors to reduce blood pressure and enhance the working of the heart; angiotensin receptor blockers are prescribed to people who are unable to take ACE inhibitors; beta blockers are used to reduce blood pressure and boosts the working of the heart; and anticoagulants are given to reduce the chances of blood clots, which can cause a stroke or heart attack.
If medications do not help with the condition, the doctor may decide to do a surgery to treat an enlarged heart. Depending on the cause of the enlargement, the procedure is selected. For instance, if the heart valve is too narrow or not working properly, then the doctor may remove the affected valve and put in an artificial one or one made from the tissue of pig, cow or human donor. If the problem lies with the coronary artery, then the doctor may perform a coronary artery bypass to alleviate the problem and treat the enlarged heart.
If the situation is really dire and there is no chance of alleviating the symptoms with the help of medications or other surgical procedure, the doctor may want to do a heart transplant. However, the wait for a donor heart can be very long as there is a dearth of people donating their heart.
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