eli5: Why is organ hypertrophy bad?


One of the side effects of steroid use is organ hypertrophy, but honestly, why is that bad? Like, wouldn’t a heart hypertrophy mean your body can circulate more blood with each beat? Why is that necessary bad?

In: 6

Organ hypertrophy means that an organ, like the heart, gets bigger. Sometimes, when the heart gets bigger from exercise, it can pump more blood and be good for you. But when the heart gets bigger from taking medicine like steroids, it can make the heart not work as well and make you sick. So it’s not always good for an organ to get bigger.

For the heart specifically, hypertrophy makes the chambers smaller, so each pump actually moves less blood, which makes it work harder, which makes the hypertrophy worse….

My bff’s dad died of this. The surgeon said his chamber walls were so thick they were touching.

Another commenter has tackled the heart specifically, but on a more general note if your organs get bigger, the volume they displace still has to go somewhere, and there is only so far that the ribs and the chest can bulge to accommodate. So they start pressing and compressing on other organs, which can be dangerous.

As an example, a larger liver is not harmful in itself, but if that causes it to press into your lungs or your guts, then that can cause breathing or digestion problems.

ELI5 version: you have a box that fits exactly 10 golf balls, and the lid fits perfectly. Now try and replace those 10 golf balls with tennis balls and try and get the lid on without squashing anything or pushing the sides or lid out

There’s different reasons for different organs, but a lot of it is that the increased size isn’t from increased functional parts, but from fat infiltration etc.

So you’ve got a car, and its now been enlarged. But its been enlarged by an idiot, who just used whatever he had lying around – its extended with wood and bricks and random bits of welded metal. Sure its bigger, but its not going to work as well.