Cardiomegaly is not a disease, but the symptom of a problem with the heart, which causes it to become enlarged. Your heart may become enlarged during pregnancy, or due to a condition that puts stress on the heart, such as coronary artery disease, prolapse or stenosis of one of the heart valves, or problems in the electrical heart rhythm. Occasionally the cause of an enlarged heart may not be known.
The symptoms of cardiomegaly are variable. In the early stages, no symptoms will be felt. Then, as the heart continues to grow, some people will not experience any symptoms at all, while others experience shortness of breath, dizziness, an abnormal heart rate, cough, chest pain or swelling in the feet. The symptoms may be caused by the condition that causes the heart to be enlarged. For example, if your heart valves have been damaged by rheumatic heart disease, you may notice an irregular heartbeat, also called an arrhythmia. Some cardiac arrhythmias cause shortness of breath and dizziness.
High blood pressure causes the heart to work harder to pump blood through the body. When the heart needs to beat faster or harder, the muscles thicken producing cardiomyopathy or stiffening of the heart muscle, which can lead to cardiomegaly over time.
A heart attack, infections, connective tissue disorders, congenital heart disease, certain medications, and cancer radiation can all damage heart, producing enlargement. Pulmonary hypertension, or high blood pressure in the lungs can increase the heart’s workload, causing the right side to be enlarged.
Iron deficiency anemia, resulting in a lack of red blood cells, produces a domino effect. If there are fewer red blood cells to transport oxygen, the heart must work harder to pump more blood to form the lack of oxygen. Over time, untreated anemia can lead to an enlarged heart. On the other hand, too much iron, or a problem with iron metabolism can put pressure on the left side of the heart, weakening the muscles and making balancing cardiomegaly.
Thyroid disorders, both a sluggish thyroid and an overactive thyroid can cause heart problems and cardiomegaly. A rare blood disorder called amyloidosis causes amyloids to build up abnormal proteins in the heart because of it’s enlargement.
Cardiomegaly may be asymptomatic or very serious, depending on the underlying cause or heart disease. The aim of the treatment is to control the symptoms and reduce whatever damage is caused by the factors causing enlargement of the heart. Cardiomegaly can not be cured, and usually can not be reversed, but it can be successfully treated and the symptoms controlled.