Restrictive Cardiomyopathy

Treating Cardiovascular Diseases in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois

Restrictive cardiomyopathy is a rare form of heart muscle disease that tends to affect older adults. It occurs when abnormal tissue, such as scar tissue, replaces normal heart muscle. The abnormal tissue usually affects the walls of the ventricles, the lower heart chambers.

This abnormal tissue is stiff and rigid, which prevents the ventricles from expanding when they fill with blood.  Over time, this causes the heart to lose its ability to pump blood effectively, which can lead to arrhythmia or heart failure. Learn more about heart failure symptoms.

Restrictive Cardiomyopathy Symptoms

Like many conditions,restrictive cardiomyopathy symptoms can vary. Some people with this condition have no symptoms or only minor symptoms and live a normal life. Others may develop any of the following symptoms, which may get worse over time:

  • Chest pain, which may occur with physical activity, after heavy meals or even during rest
  • Fainting, which may be caused by irregular heart rhythms or abnormal responses of blood vessels during exercise
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to exercise
  • Nausea and bloating
  • Palpitations or fluttering in the chest due to abnormal heart rhythms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the legs and feet
  • Weight gain related to fluid retention

Causes of Restrictive Cardiomyopathy 

Restrictive cardiomyopathy can have a variety of causes, including:

  • Buildup of abnormal proteins, known as amyloidosis
  • Buildup of scar tissue
  • Chemotherapy or radiation to the chest area
  • Execess iron, a condition known as hemochromatosis
  • Systemic diseases, such as sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that causes abnormal lumps or nodules to form in organs

Many times, the cause of restrictive cardiomyopathy remains unknown.

Restrictive Cardiomyopathy Diagnosis

Diagnosing restrictive cardiomyopathy is based on your medical history, physical exam and any of the following cardiac tests:

Treating Restrictive Cardiomyopathy 

As with many conditions, doctors treat restrictive cardiomyopathy with lifestyle changes, medications and surgical options tailored for each individual patient.

Lifestyle changes may include:

  • Exercising only as your condition allows, taking breaks when necessary
  • Restricting sodium intake

Medications may include:

  • ACE inhibitors and related medications to help relax blood vessels, lower blood pressure, and decrease the heart's workload
  • Aldosterone blockers to balance electrolytes
  • Beta blockers to slow the heart and limit disease progression
  • Digoxin to slow and regulate the heart rate, and modestly increase its force of contractions
  • Diuretics to eliminate extra fluid
  • Special medications to treat underlying causes, such as amyloidosis, hemochromatosis or sarcoidosis

Lifestyle changes may include fluids and sodium restrictions, limiting alcohol and caffeinated beverages, and avoiding high-intensity sports and weight lifting.

If the condition is severe, a heart transplant may be considered.

A Leader in Treating Complex Cardiovascular Disease

Restrictive cardiomyopathy requires long-term management involving specialized care, close observation and monitoring by experienced and knowledgeable cardiologists.

With state-of-the-art technology and experienced specialists, Aurora provides you with expert diagnosis and advanced treatment options. As a result, your outlook for living with restrictive cardiomyopathy is excellent.

You’ll find our doctors conveniently located throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Find a doctor or heart specialist near you. To get a second opinion or if you need assistance finding a provider, please call 888-649-6892.