By: Daniel Haight, MD
Friday, July 12 2013
Country singer Randy Travis, 54, just underwent surgery after suffering from a stroke related to complications of recently acquired viral cardiomyopathy.
In rare cases, an infection from a virus can irritate or inflame the heart muscle with this resulting condition known as viral cardiomyopathy. It can cause the heart to weaken and not squeeze strong enough to keep blood flowing in the right direction. The virus that causes this in one person often does not cause the same problem in another person. And, it is not known why some viruses can damage the heart in one person, but not in another.
This rare condition is just one of many causes of a common disease called Congestive Heart Failure (CHF). No matter what causes CHF, this condition can severely limit a person’s ability to enjoy activities of daily life. CHF can be mild, moderate, or severe.
When the heart does fail or weaken, blood will “back up” and cause “congestion.” Congestion is another word for fluid that builds up in places where it should not collect such as the legs, belly or the lungs. A failing heart also has trouble getting enough blood to important parts of the body such as the kidneys that could fail if deprived of an adequate supply of oxygenated blood. And, if the kidneys do not work properly, then more fluid will stay inside the body to make matters worse.
There are many different types of treatment, but knowing the cause, determined through a thorough physician assessment and diagnosis tests, is important in order to map out the correct treatment plan. Here are some examples that may lead to CHF:
- A heart attack damages a part of the heart muscle when a blood vessel to the heart gets blocked
- A valve inside the heart that normally prevents blood from flowing backwards becomes damaged or stops working properly
- A valve inside the heart does not open all the way and the heart cannot squeeze blood out effectively
- A hole in the heart can cause blood to flow in the wrong direction
- A person’s blood pressure is too high and the heart cannot squeeze the blood out effectively
- If the heart cannot relax to let enough blood fill in after squeezing, blood and fluid may back up into the lungs
- If the heart does not beat regularly, or either too fast or too slow, blood will not be pumped effectively throughout the body
- The entire heart muscle can be damaged from infections, poisons, drinking too much alcohol, using cocaine, or through a build-up of non-muscle material in the wall of the heart.
All of these conditions are called cardiomyopathies.
To understand this condition better, it is good to know that the heart is actually two pumps in one. The heart has two sides (right and left) that blood flows through. The right side of the heart gets blood from the body and pumps it to the lungs and the left side of the heart gets blood from the lungs (bright red and rich in oxygen) and pumps it to the rest of the body.
If the left side fails, then blood and fluid backs up into the lungs and some parts of the body may not get enough blood flow. This can cause the kidneys to fail. If the right side fails, then blood and fluid backs up in the legs, liver and belly. If both sides are failing, the risk for death increases. There are many treatments depending on the cause of heart failure, but for many there is no complete cure but rather a day to day challenge.
Words to know:
“Myo” = muscle
“itis” = irritation or inflammation
“pathy” = disease
Treating your body with care (proper exercise, good nutrition, maintaining a healthy weight, plenty of fluids) will lead to a better life and keep your heart as strong as possible.
If you or someone you know is displaying any potential symptoms of heart problems, seek out medical help. Always call 911 if it is a life-threatening circumstance. Consider getting a check-up by your primary care physician or a cardiologist on the staff of Lakeland Regional Medical Center. Call 863-687-5762. Keep active. Be informed. Protect your health and your heart. It’s the only one you have.