Six heart diseases with strange names, and what they mean

Say the words heart disease, and the room suddenly falls silent. Except, of course, if the heart disease has a name so strange, it makes most people ask “what’s that”? Today, on World Heart Day 2019, we look at some of these strange heart conditions with even stranger names.

Cardiac Syndrome X

Soon after angiographies became widely available in the 1960s, clinicians noticed something they had never seen before. Some patients had chest pain (angina) but no damage to or blockages in the coronary artery. While they tried to figure out the reason for this type of angina, they named it Cardiac Syndrome X. The name stuck.

Cardiac Syndrome X is a type of coronary microvascular disease that is characterised by damage to the tiny arteries that line the wall of the heart. These tiny blood vessels are projections of the bigger coronary artery – when they get blocked or damaged, the heart doesn’t get an adequate supply of blood and oxygen. This drop in blood circulation is what makes the heart muscles spasm, leading to angina.

CHARGE Syndrome

A rare genetic disorder that affects multiple parts of the body, CHARGE is an abbreviation of

  • Coloboma – a hole in a part of the eyes such as the iris or the retina
  • Heart defects
  • Atresia choanae – blockage of the nasal passage due to a bone or tissue outgrowth
  • Growth retardation – genital abnormalities
  • Ear abnormalities

Children born with CHARGE Syndrome usually have other symptoms such as a cleft palate, and poor motor and cognitive skills.

Kidney disorders, weak immune system and disfigured limbs and spine are some of the less common symptoms associated with this condition.

LEOPARD Syndrome

No, the animal has nothing to do with this disease. Okay, maybe it does a little bit. People with LEOPARD Syndrome have dark spots on their skin, just like a leopard. As it is a syndrome – patients can experience a group of symptoms that occur at the same time. The word LEOPARD stands for

  • Lentigines – dark patches on the skin
  • Electrocardiographic conduction defects – abnormal nerve conduction in the heart
  • Ocular hypertelorism – wide space between the eyes
  • Pulmonary stenosis – obstruction of blood flow from the right ventricle, the part of the heart that sends blood to the lungs for oxygenation
  • Abnormal genitalia
  • Retarded growth, which leads to stunting
  • Deafness

Heart defects associated with this condition become apparent in early childhood or infancy. The abnormal nerve conduction creates a lag between the functioning of the upper and lower chambers of the heart. So while the upper chambers function well, the lower chambers fall behind. The condition may or may not show symptoms, depending on where the lag occurs in the signalling.

Broken Heart Syndrome

Though the name sounds like it came out of a romantic novel, Broken Heart Syndrome occurs when the left ventricle – the heart chamber that pushes blood to the body – becomes too weak and deformed to function well.

So where does the name come from?

From the fact that people usually develop this condition after they have experienced excessive emotional stress – this could be because of the death of a loved one or from the shock of receiving some unbelievably good news like suddenly winning a big lottery.

The symptoms of Broken Heart Syndrome include chest pain and shortness of breath. Though the condition can be managed with timely treatment, it can be life-threatening at the moment.

Kounis Syndrome

It’s not unusual to have diseases named after the scientists who discover them. The disadvantage: these names tell us nothing about the disease or even which part of the body it affects.

Enter, Kounis Syndrome.

It refers to the sudden onset of chest pain or heart attack that is triggered by an allergy to a drug, food or insect bite.

It is named after Professor Nicholas Kounis, a Greek cardiologist, who demonstrated the effect of hypersensitivity (allergic reaction) in cardiac arteries: when the immune system comes in contact with an allergen, it initiates an inflammatory response that causes spasms in the heart muscles. These spasms manifest as chest pain (angina). If a person already has weak heart muscles or plaque deposits in their arteries, the spasms may lead to a heart attack.

Cardiomyopathy Cataract Hip Spine Disease

This is not a typo.

An extremely rare genetic condition, Cardiomyopathy Cataract Hip Spine Disease occurs due to a combination of heart muscle damage, premature cataract and degeneration of the hip and spinal bones. Of these, cataract is usually the first symptom to appear.

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