Man holding his chest.Acute myocarditis is often due to a viral infection.  After the virus is cleared most people recover; however, myocarditis can evolve over months into cardiomyopathy which results from the scar left over from healing the acute infection.  The Myocarditis Foundation aims to make information about myocarditis more accessible to researchers, families, and caregivers. Find out more about cardiomyopathy vs. myocarditis with insights from Myocarditis Foundation.

What Is Myocarditis?

Myocarditis is an uncommon disease defined by inflammation in the heart muscle. This inflammation can cause chest pain, a feeling of rapid heartbeat, and sometimes a decrease in the ability of the heart to pump blood. Anyone from young adults to children to infants can develop myocarditis. People from puberty until their early 30s are more susceptible, and it even affects young, athletic individuals.  Men are affected more frequently than women.

There are many causes of myocarditis, but in North America and Europe, the most common causes are viruses.  The viruses which cause myocarditis, exist commonly in our community but only rarely affect the heart.  Symptoms of myocarditis can vary, affecting each person differently. However, as the condition worsens, you may start to notice symptoms such as:

  • New or worsening shortness of breath
  • Excessive Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations or feeling like you are going to lose consciousness
  • Chest pain or pressure

What Is Cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy refers to heart muscle disease, and in some cases can result from myocarditis. In the short term, myocarditis causes cardiomyopathy through inflammation. If there is excessive scar tissue from the inflammation, then cardiomyopathy can persist sometimes for months or years after the inflammation is resolved.  People affected by myocarditis and cardiomyopathy can have symptoms of heart failure, arrhythmias, or chest pain related to inflammation of the pericardium or lining of the heart.  There are different forms of cardiomyopathy listed below:

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy: The left ventricle of your heart becomes larger, making it harder for blood to pump out.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: Heart muscles will thicken, making it difficult to fill with blood.
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy: The heart muscle becomes tough and stiff but is not thickened, resulting in high pressures which can cause shortness of breath and ankle swelling.
  • Unclassified cardiomyopathy: These include uncommon forms of cardiomyopathy such as left ventricular noncompaction.

Myocarditis most commonly causes dilated cardiomyopathy, but rarely it can cause the other forms.

  • Inability to catch your breath
  • Swelling of legs, ankles, and feet
  • Bloating in the abdomen
  • Coughing during periods of rest
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting

How Does Myocarditis Relate to Cardiomyopathy?

Myocarditis is generally an acute disease which comes on with a few hours or days of progressive symptoms and resolves over days to weeks.  Although cardiomyopathy may result from the acute inflammation of myocarditis, it can also result in scar tissue that formed as part of the healing process.  In that setting, cardiomyopathy can persist for months to years.  in addition to guideline-based medical management, your cardiologist may suggest making certain lifestyle changes such as:

  • Reduce sodium intake
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages
  • Limit fluids
  • Quit smoking tobacco products
  • Abstain from competitive sports or intense exercise for a time after the 1st onset of symptoms

Researchers suggest approximately 20% of people diagnosed with myocarditis will have chronic cardiomyopathy.

Join the Fight against Myocarditis

Since myocarditis is a catalyst for cardiomyopathy, it’s important to seek proper medical treatment if you experience symptoms. That’s why we’re here to give you the tools, knowledge, and support you need to fight the disease and lead a healthy life. To find out more about cardiomyopathy vs. myocarditis, contact Myocarditis Foundation today.

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