Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) a problem with the heart muscle that can make it harder for the heart to pump well. It can cause heart failure.
HCM is usually caused by a defect in the genes that control the growth of the heart muscle. The defect causes the cells to become tangled and jumbled up instead of having their normal pattern. The walls of the heart become thick and stiff. The thickening may make it harder for the heart to pump well. The changes may happen throughout the heart or in just a small part of it.
Because it can be caused by a defect in genes, HCM often runs in families.
Sometimes HCM occurs because of high blood pressure. Having very high blood pressure for a long time can make the walls of the heart thicken. The thickening may get severe enough to cause HCM.
People of all ages may have HCM, but younger people are likely to have a more severe form of the disease. Young athletes who die during heavy exercise are often found to have HCM.
HCM varies widely in how it affects people. Many people have no symptoms at all. Others may be nearly disabled.
The most common symptoms are:
Other possible symptoms are:
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, examine you, and listen to your heart. You may have:
You may also need to wear a Holter monitor. A Holter monitor is used to record your heart rhythm for at least 24 hours.
Because the disease may run in families, your healthcare provider may suggest testing other members of your family.
If tests show no blockage to blood flow and no potentially dangerous heart rhythm problems, regular checkups by your healthcare provider may be all you need.
If you are having symptoms, you may need treatment. There is no treatment for the gene defect causing HCM. Your healthcare provider can only treat the effects of the genetic defect.
If your heart's ability to pump is getting worse, you could have heart failure. Most heart failure in people with HCM results from abnormal heart muscle contraction or blocked blood flow. Medicines such as beta blockers and calcium channel blockers may be used to relax the heart muscle and reduce the amount of blockage.
Procedures that may be used to treat HCM include:
Most people with mild forms of HCM have very few problems and a normal life expectancy. Some people with HCM develop heart failure. Very rarely, people with HCM die suddenly.
If you have HCM, your main risk is that you may start having abnormal heart rhythms. In some cases this abnormal heart rhythm may be a type called ventricular fibrillation. Ventricular fibrillation prevents coordinated beating of the heart muscle. As a result, blood circulation can come to a sudden stop. Emergency treatment with an electrical shock is then needed to prevent death.