Viral cardiomyopathy is a heart condition caused by a viral infection in the heart. The heart weakens and does not work as well as it should, causing a variety of problems for the patient. Once diagnosed with cardiomyopathy of any kind, the prognosis for the patient is variable, depending on how severe the condition is and what kinds of treatment options are available. Generally, the weakening of the heart will force the patient to make some permanent lifestyle changes.
Viral infections of the heart are not uncommon. Some resolve on their own, especially in healthy individuals, and leave no lasting problems behind. In other patients, the viral infection causes inflammation, and this damages the muscles in the heart, causing viral cardiomyopathy. Most commonly, viral cardiomyopathy presents as a form of dilated cardiomyopathy, where the chambers of the heart enlarge and the heart has to work harder to pump blood throughout the body.
The initial viral infection may not cause symptoms, or it may lead to symptoms so mild the patient never seeks treatment. Over time, the weakening of the heart causes issues like shortness of breath, dizziness, and fatigue. Medical imaging studies can reveal the enlargement of the heart, and the patient can also undergo testing to assess heart function and see how hard the heart is working.
People with viral cardiomyopathy can be treated with medications to improve heart function, and it's also possible to make some diet and lifestyle modifications to improve the prognosis for a patient with this condition. Some people benefit from alternative therapies to improve circulation, such as acupuncture. Usually, the patient will need to rest, refrain from high intensity exercise and hard labor, and be careful about exertion in other settings, as the enlarged heart cannot cope with the increased oxygen needs that accompany hard work.
Some patients are more at risk for viral infections of the heart than others, and some viruses are more likely to lead to viral cardiomyopathy. People with active viral infections should seek treatment, as it may be possible to avoid complications like viral cardiomyopathy by providing aggressive and timely treatment for viruses. Patients with a history of viral infection should also make sure their physicians are aware of it during routine health screening, as the virus may be an important diagnostic clue if a doctor is concerned about a patient's heart function or other issues.