Cardiomegaly is the medical term for an enlarged heart. An enlarged heart can have several causes including various heart conditions such as high blood pressure, pulmonary hypertension, arrhythmia, coronary artery disease, and other conditions involving the heart valves or heart muscle. It can also be due to stress on the body caused by pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse, and obesity. It can be caused by genetic conditions and congenital diseases. There are a few instances when the heart becomes enlarged and becomes weak for unknown reasons also known as idiopathic. An enlarged heart is not a disease or a condition itself but rather a symptom of an associated or underlying condition.
The symptoms of an enlarged heart depend on the underlying cause because these symptoms may actually be the associated symptoms of the accompanying condition or disease that is causing the enlargement of the heart.
The symptoms of an enlarged heart are similar to the symptoms of congestive heart failure where the heart is not able to pump blood properly.
These symptoms are:
- Feeling tired
- Shortness of breath
- Skipped heartbeats or palpitations
- Swelling of the leg
- Weight again there are times though that an enlarged heart does not present any symptoms at all and the condition progresses slowly which means that an enlarged heart can go undiagnosed unless detected while testing or examining the individual for another condition.
The signs and symptoms of an enlarged heart may include:
- Edema or water retention
- Arrhythmia or irregular beating or rhythm of the heart
- Weight gain particularly in the midsection or abdomen
- Raspy voice or shortness of breath especially when lying flat or when active
- Skipped heartbeats
- Chest pain
- Swelling of the legs
- Fluid retention or a persistent cough that causes swelling
When you are experiencing the following symptoms of an enlarged heart, it is important for you to call for a medical emergency because you might be experiencing a heart attack:
- Fainting or near-fainting
- Chest pain
- Discomfort or pain in other areas of the upper body such as one or both arms, neck, jaw, stomach, and back
- Trouble catching your breath
- Severe difficulty breathing
How to Recognize Symptoms of an Enlarged Heart?
- Check for shortness of breath
Shortness of breath is one of the most common symptoms of an enlarged heart. Having an enlarged heart makes it difficult to pump efficiently that’s why excess fluids flow back into the lungs which result in shortness of breath.
Shortness of breath can usually be experienced when engaged in physical activity or when lying down. It is quite challenging to workout and do exercises or wake up in the middle of the night because of the shortness of breath.
- Look for arrhythmia or irregular beating of the heart
When the heartbeat is either too fast or too slow for some unknown reason, you may have an arrhythmia. Arrhythmia is usually harmless but it can be serious and call for a medical emergency.
The following are the symptoms of arrhythmia:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Palpitations that can either have an irregular rhythm or a skipped heartbeat
- Fainting or almost fainting
- Pay attention to coughing and chest pain
Chest pain is an associated symptom of arrhythmia but if it is accompanied by coughing, it requires special attention because these two symptoms might be a sign of heart attack. Seek medical help immediately once you experience coughing and chest pain.
Too much coughing that includes mucus and saliva or phlegm can lead to heart failure which is frequently a consequence of an enlarged heart. Too much cough can also result in trace amounts of blood in the phlegm.
- Watch out for swelling of some body parts
The swelling of the body parts is caused by water retention or edema, the building up of fluids, which is a normal symptom of an enlarged heart. This symptom can also be associated with shortness of breath because a poor circulation of the blood causes the fluid some difficulty in draining properly from the lungs, legs, and abdomen.
The most frequent form of edema that is linked with an enlarged heart is the swelling in the legs. An individual may also gain weight because of the swelling. Experiencing an inexplicable and steady weight gain accompanied by other symptoms of an enlarged heart calls for immediate consultation with a doctor.
- Monitor tiredness or fatigue
An enlarged heart makes the circulation of blood throughout the body more difficult. If there isn’t enough amount of blood circulating throughout the body, it makes you feel dizzy and tired or fatigued. A reduced supply of blood to the brain may lead to feeling fatigued or lethargy.
Be mindful that fatigue is a symptom of other conditions and diseases so it’s not always the case of having an enlarged heart. Always check for the associated symptoms experienced with it.