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Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy refers to deteriorated functioning of the heart muscles. This happens due to thickened or enlarged heart muscles. It is a term that includes many conditions that occur due to damage to the heart ventricles. It can also be indicative of heart failure, arrhythmia and systemic embolization. The symptoms of cardiomyopathy are typical of most heart ailments - shortness of breath, fainting, palpitations, fatigue and chest pain. Swelling may develop in the feet and legs. Fluid might build up in the lungs and abdomen.

ECG will show abnormal results. MRI is often resorted to. Cardiac Catherization might be done to measure pressure in the heart. In most cases, Cardiomyopathy cannot usually be completely cured. Treatment can ease symptoms.

Becker muscular dystrophy

Becker muscular dystrophy or BMD is one of the nine types of muscular dystrophies characterized by muscle wasting and weakness which is mainly proximal. it is caused by mutations in the same genes as is the case with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Becker muscular dystrophy is also caused by a mutation of the dystrophin gene, which is responsible for the body to make the protein dystrophin, that is essential for normal muscle function. However, BMD is less severe and is slow in its progression and generally, walking difficulties begin after the age of 16. Becker muscular dystrophy affects only boys and young men, and women are generally only the carriers of the mutated gene.


Symptoms of BMD

Becker muscular dystrophy affects the muscles of the hips, pelvic area, thighs and shoulders, as well as the heart. The symptoms typically start to surface during adolescence and become clearly noticeable by the time the child reaches his mid teens. The health of the patient worsens over time and shortens his life expectancy. The majority of people diagnosed with BMD do not survive beyond 40 or 50 years.


Some of the symptoms include:


  • Delay in walking and running for young children

  • Unexplained clumsiness

  • Cramps during exercise

  • Unable to join school sports

  • Weak muscles near torso

  • Enlarged calf muscles

  • Difficulty lifting weights and climbing stairs

  • Falling and finding it hard to get up again

  • Heart problems

  • Complete inability to walk

  • Cardiomyopathy

Diagnosis and treatment

The following are some of the diagnostic tests conducted before confirming the Becker muscular atrophy. Serum test for assessing creatine kinase as raised CK levels call for further investigation.


  • Genetic analysis to detect abnormal dystrophin gene

  • Muscle biopsy - for dystrophin staining

  • Testing for Cardiomyopathy

Treatment of BMD

There is no permanent cure for any muscular dystrophy. Becker muscular dystrophy needs to be managed according to the particular symptoms of each patient. The main aim of the treatment is to optimize the muscle functioning and increase the quality of the life. Physiotherapy, steroid medications, orthopaedic aids such as splints, braces, and genetic counseling go a long way in giving support to the patient.


Delirium Tremens

Delirium Tremens or DT is a serious condition of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. DT leads to sudden and severe mental and nervous system changes.


Causes of Delirium Tremens

When a person suddenly stops drinking alcohol after a period of heavy consumption, and does not eat enough food, delirium tremens occurs. This means, a person consuming 4-5 pints of wine or 7-8 pints of beer of a pint of hard alcohol every day for several months. This could happen to people with more than a decade of drinking alcohol.

One important reason is that in long term drinkers, alcohol interferes with body's ability to regulate a neurotransmitter called GABA. In chronic alcohol abuse, the body mistakes alcohol for GABA and reacts to this by reducing its production of the neurotransmitter. As alcohol levels falls too low, it means there is not enough GABA for proper functioning. This can also occur due to infection, injury and illness in people with a history of heavy alcohol use and abuse.


Signs and symptoms of Delirium Tremens

Symptoms normally occur within 72 hours of the last drink, but they can also occur up to 10 days after the last drink. Common symptoms include:


  • Body tremors
  • Functional changes
  • Agitation
  • Anger and irritability
  • Confusion and loss of focus
  • Reduced attention span
  • Deep sleep that lasts for a day or longer
  • Excitement and fear
  • Hallucination
  • Hyperactivity
  • Quick mood reversals
  • Restlessness
  • Sensitivity to light, sound and touch
  • Sleeplessness and fatigue.

There could be seizures, most commonly in the first 12-48 hours after the last drink. As DT can temporarily reduce the amount of blood flow to the brain, symptoms as confusion, disorientation, stupor and loss of consciousness and hallucinations occur. There are other medical complications that can arise due to alcohol abuse. These include:


  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Neuropathy
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Wernicke Korsakoff's syndrome, a brain disorder due to thiamine deficiency
  • Injury from fall during seizures
  • Irregular heartbeat which can be life threatening
  • Delirium and injury to self/others in a state of confusion

The body goes through change due to withdrawal of alcohol when a person suddenly stops drinking after prolonged use. Alcohol has a slowing and sedating effect on the brain and the brain of a long term drinker is conditionally exposed to the depressant effect of alcohol. The brain starts producing naturally stimulating chemicals to compensate for the effect of alcohol. Hence, if the alcohol is withdrawn suddenly, the brain is lost. This dangerous condition of delirium tremens occurs in almost 1 out of every 20 persons. In this condition the brain is unable to read the chemistry after alcohol is stopped and therefore creates a temporary confusion leading to dangerous changes in the way the brain regulates body circulation and breathing. This creates risk of heart attack, stroke and death.


Diagnosis of DT

Blood tests can be done to assess blood magnesium and blood phosphate levels. Comprehensive metabolic panel and toxicology tests are also conducted. A stay in hospital in required for treatment. Regular checks of blood chemistry levels, such as electrolytes, body fluids level and vital signs such as temperature, pulse, breathing rate and blood pressure are monitored. Medications such as anticonvulsants, central nervous system depressants and sedatives are administered for symptoms such as seizures and irregular heartbeat. Sometimes the patient is put in a state of sedation for a week until withdrawal is complete. Benzodiazepine medications are given to treat seizures, anxiety and tremors. Only after the patient recovers from immediate symptoms is long term preventive treatment given. The doctor allows a ‘drying out' period in which no alcohol is consumed.

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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: October 18, 2017