Heart Disease: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

What Is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy?

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is associated with thickening of the heart muscle, most commonly at the septum between the ventricles, below the aortic valve. This leads to stiffening of the walls of the heart and abnormal aortic and mitral heart valve function, both of which may impede normal blood flow out of the heart.

What Are the Symptoms of HCM?

Many people with HCM have no symptoms or only minor symptoms, and live a normal life. Other people develop symptoms, which progress and worsen as heart function worsens.

Symptoms of HCM can occur at any age and may include:

  • Chest pain or pressure (occurs usually with exercise or physical activity, but can also occur with rest or after meals).
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea), especially with exertion.
  • Fatigue (feeling overly tired).
  • Fainting (caused by irregular heart rhythms, abnormal responses of the blood vessels during exercise, or no cause may be found).
  • Palpitations (fluttering in the chest) due to abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), such as atrial fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia.
  • Sudden death occurs in a small number of patients with HCM.

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Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Medication Treatment

What medication treatments for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy are available?

Often, drugs are used to treat symptoms and prevent further complications of HCM. Medications can help relax the heart and reduce the degree of obstruction so the heart can pump more efficiently. Beta-blockers and calcium channel blocker blockers are two classes of medications that may be prescribed. If you have an arrhythmia, your doctor may prescribe medications to control your heart rate or decrease the occurrence of arrhythmias.

You may be told to avoid certain medications, such as nitrates, because they lower blood pressure, or digoxin, because it increases the force of the heart's contraction.

Non-obstructive HCM symptoms may be treated with medications. If heart failure occurs, treatment is aimed at controlling it through heart failure medications and diet changes.

Your doctor will discuss which medications are best for you.