What Causes Heart Blockage?

A heart blockage is essentially a problem with the heart's electrical system, as the electrical impulse of a heartbeat tries to travel from the sinoatrial (SA) node to the lower, atrioventricular (AV) node. The signal can be slowed or disrupted anywhere along this pathway, resulting in several different degrees of heart blockage. Heart blockages can have congenital causes, such as autoimmune diseases or congenital heart defects, or they can be acquired. Heart attack is the most common cause of acquired heart blockage, with other causes consisting of cardiomyopathy, myocarditis or rheumatic fever. Lev's disease is a more severe muscular degenerative illness that can be responsible for heart blockage in adults.

The exact cause of most congenital heart defects that cause heart blockage is unclear. They may be partially hereditary or involve genetic disorders such as Down syndrome. Smoking during pregnancy has also been a factor involved in many congenital heart defects.

If a pregnant mother has an autoimmune disease, such as lupus, it can sometimes result in congenital heart damage to her unborn child. This is because antibodies have the ability to cross the placentas of pregnant women. During most of these autoimmune diseases, the mother produces proteins and antibodies that can potentially cross the placenta and damage the child's body tissue. This may result in congenital heart block.


Heart attacks are the most common form of acquired heart blockage. Healthy lifestyle choices, such as a nutritional diet, quitting smoking and exercising, are the best prevention of heart blockage in this scenario. Medications are also available to control cholesterol and blood pressure and to ease the workload on one's heart in the aftermath of a heart attack. In addition, proper cardiac rehabilitation is recommended depending on the severity of the attack.

Myocarditis refers to the inflammation of the heart muscle and is similar to a heart attack except that the arteries are not blocked. The inflammation is often a result of an autoimmune reaction in which the body has been infected with a virus that bears similarities to proteins found in the heart. After the infection has been fought off, the immune system will continue to attack the cardiac proteins. Most cases of myocarditis cannot be cured directly, and treatment normally consists of therapeutic control of symptoms. Heart transplant is generally reserved for extreme cases of myocarditis in which patients are unresponsive to therapy.

Cardiomyopathy most often refers to a disease directly affecting the heart muscle and its ability to function. Heart blockage can be one of its earliest indicators. The heart will usually become thick and rigid, and if left untreated, cardiomyopathy will eventually lead to abnormal heartbeat or even sudden cardiac death. Cardiomyopathy can have a large variety of causes, including genetics, certain diseases and certain drugs or alcohol. Medication in accordance with healthy lifestyle changes are recommended for some patients, while open heart surgery is available for the more severe cases.

Heart inflammation is often a major indicator of rheumatic fever, but in some cases, the body may not exhibit any noticeable signs of inflammation at all, such as shortness of breath or chest pain. In these cases, a heart block may be the only symptom of a heart inflammation due to rheumatic fever. Medication is available to treat rheumatic fever as well as its symptoms. Left untreated, heart inflammation from rheumatic fever can lead to long-lasting damage to the heart, or, in more severe cases, congestive heart failure.

Lev's disease is a muscular degeneration of the conduction system of the heart, caused by the excessive deposition of fibrosis and calcium into the heart's electrical system. This will cause a complete heart block, often requiring emergency treatment as it may lead to sudden cardiac arrest. Many patients with Lev's disease will need a long-term pacemaker to keep their hearts beating properly.



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