Cardiomegaly is a medical term referring to an enlarged heart muscle. The condition is obvious on an X-ray, as a patient’s heart appears larger than it should be and may not be pumping effectively. Without imaging, however, cardiomegaly may be more difficult to identify. From Myocarditis Foundation, this list of enlarged heart symptoms may help doctors and patients determine when testing is in order.

Swollen Extremities (Edema)

One reliable sign of a circulatory disorder is edema. Also known as dropsy, this condition is the result of fluid retention. As excess fluids pool and collect, the patient’s extremities begin to swell and puff, causing the skin to look stretched or shiny. It may also gain an unusual spongy texture that shows a clear dimple for several seconds after being pressed. Edema most often appears in the legs and ankles, but may also occur in the hands, face, or abdomen.

Edema is often caused by an enlarged heart. The ineffective pumping allows blood to flow backward and collect in the extremities. Cardiomegaly isn’t the only disorder associated with edema, however, as other circulatory issues may cause similar symptoms.

Unusual Fatigue

Another symptom commonly connected to heart conditions is fatigue. The heart’s pumping action pushes blood throughout the body, delivering nutrients and oxygen to vital organs. An insufficient heart can’t move blood as quickly as necessary, and meanwhile, the brain, lungs, and muscles become deprived of what they need to function properly. Symptoms present as the following:

  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Dizziness, especially after exertion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vertigo
  • Fainting

Unusual fatigue is also associated with multiple circulatory disorders – not just cardiomegaly. If you are experiencing any of the aforementioned signs, consult with a doctor for a diagnosis.

Irregular Heart Rhythms

Almost all cases of cardiomegaly result in irregularities. An oversized heart can’t beat as evenly and effectively as a muscle of a healthy size. This leads to arrhythmias, which are irregular heartbeats that are too slow, too fast, or vary in speed and rhythm. Careful listening with a stethoscope may reveal skipped or doubled beats. In some cases, the arrhythmia may even be noticeable without medical equipment.

In extreme cases, arrhythmias may become heart palpitations, when the heart noticeably feels like it’s pounding, fluttering, or racing. The sensation may also extend to the throat or neck. Palpitations last for only a few seconds or minutes, but in almost all cases, however, they are cause for concern and could point to cardiomegaly.

Aches and Pains

Very severe cardiomegaly can be painful. Like most heart conditions, it is known to cause mild to severe chest pain with aches potentially extending to other areas of the body, such as the following:

  • Arms
  • Back
  • Neck
  • Jaw

These symptoms indicate a medical emergency. If you or a loved one is experiencing chest pain or pain in any of these areas, consult with a medical professional immediately to seek diagnosis and treatment.

Stay Informed about Cardiomegaly

To learn more about cardiomegaly, enlarged heart symptoms, and other signs to watch for, stay connected with Myocarditis Foundation. We’re a nationwide network of doctors, researchers, and educators who collaborate to improve understanding and awareness of heart conditions like myocarditis. Contact us to find out how you can get involved or to explore the many resources we have available online.

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