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What is Cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy, is a disease that weakens and enlarges your heart muscle. Cardiomyopathy makes it harder for your heart to pump blood and deliver it to the rest of your body. Cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure.

Types of Cardiomyopathy

  • Dilated: In this disorder, the pumping ability of your heart's main pumping chamber— the left—becomes less forceful. The left ventricle becomes enlarged (dilated) and can't effectively pump blood out of the heart.
  • Hypertrophic: This type of cardiomyopathy involves abnormal growth or thickening of your heart muscle, particularly affecting the muscle of your heart's main pumping chamber. As thickening occurs, the heart tends to stiffen and the size of the pumping chamber may shrink, interfering with your heart's ability to deliver blood to your body.
  • Restrictive: The heart muscle in people with restrictive cardiomyopathy becomes rigid and less elastic, meaning the heart can't properly expand and fill with blood between heartbeats.


Some people who develop cardiomyopathy have no signs and symptoms during the early stages of the disease. But as the condition advances, signs and symptoms usually appear. Cardiomyopathy symptoms may include:

  • Bloating of the abdomen due to fluid buildup
  • Breathlessness
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness and fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeats that feel rapid
  • Swelling of the legs, ankles and feet

Causes and Risk Factors

Most of the time, the cause of the cardiomyopathy is unknown. In some people, however, doctors are able to identify some contributing factors. Possible causes of cardiomyopathy include:

  • Abuses of cocaine or antidepressant medication
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Chronic rapid heart rate
  • Certain viral infections
  • Excessive use of alcohol
  • Genetic condition
  • Heart valve problems
  • Heart tissue damage
  • High blood pressure
  • Iron buildup in your heart muscle
  • Nutritional deficiencies of essential vitamins
  • Metabolic disorders: thyroid disease or diabetes


Your doctor will conduct a physical examination, take a personal and family medical history, and ask when your symptoms occur. If your doctor thinks you have cardiomyopathy, you may need to undergo several tests to confirm the diagnosis. These tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Chest X-ray
  • Echocardiogram (ECHO)
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)


The overall goals of treatment for cardiomyopathy are to manage your signs and symptoms, prevent your condition from worsening, and reduce your risk of complications. Treatment varies by which of the major types of cardiomyopathy you have. Surgical treatment may include:

  • Heart transplant
  • Pacemaker and defibrillator


In many cases, you cannot prevent cardiomyopathy. Let your doctor know if you have a family history of the condition. If cardiomyopathy is diagnosed early, treatments may prevent the disease from worsening.