What are the symptoms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?

Sudden and unexpected death is the most devastating symptom of HCM. It occurs without warning signs and is caused by a lethal heart rhythm disturbance. Fortunately, only a small minority of individuals are suddenly stricken. Unfortunately, that minority is mostly children and young adults.

However, reaching a certain age does not insure the SCD will not occur. It is unlikely but still happens – most often after strenuous physical exertion.

There is no particular symptom or complaint which is unique to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Some people don’t get any symptoms. Others do get symptoms and some of the most common are listed below.

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Lightheadedness
  • Chest pain or discomfort (angina)
  • Heart palpitations –an uncomfortable awareness of the heart beating rapidly or irregularly
  • Fainting or near-fainting (syncope), especially with exertion
  • Fatigue
  • Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias)

One of the most significant challenges when dealing with HCM is the fact is that the presentation of symptoms often results in the wrong diagnosis. Some of the most common mistaken diagnoses include: depression, innocent heart murmur, anxiety, panic attacks, mitral valve prolapse, and asthma. Sadly the misdiagnosis of athletically-induced asthma can lead to tragic results. An athlete with Asthma can continue playing sports with a treatment regimen prescribed – along with the supervision – of a qualified medical professional. Most qualified and experienced MD’s would agree an athlete with HCM should be discouraged from participating in organized sports.