In this heart muscle disease, the heart's main pumping chamber stretches and can't pump blood well. Learn about the causes and treatment.
Dilated cardiomyopathy is a type of heart muscle disease that causes the heart chambers (ventricles) to thin and stretch, growing larger. It typically starts in the heart's main pumping chamber (left ventricle). Dilated cardiomyopathy makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body.
Symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy — such as fatigue and shortness of breath — can mimic other health conditions. A person with dilated cardiomyopathy might not notice any symptoms at first. But dilated cardiomyopathy can become life-threatening. It's a common cause of heart failure.
Dilated cardiomyopathy is more common in men than women. Treatment of dilated cardiomyopathy may include medications or surgery to implant a medical device that controls the heartbeat or helps the heart pump blood. Sometimes, a heart transplant is needed.
Dilated cardiomyopathy causes the chambers of the heart to grow larger. Untreated, dilated cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure.
Some people with dilated cardiomyopathy don't have any signs or symptoms in the early stages of the disease.
Signs and symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy may include:
If you are short of breath or have other symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy, see your health care provider as soon as possible. Call 911 or your local emergency number if you have chest pain that lasts more than a few minutes or have severe difficulty breathing.
If a family member has dilated cardiomyopathy, talk to your health care provider. Some types of dilated cardiomyopathy run in families (are inherited). Genetic testing may be recommended.
It may be difficult to determine the cause of dilated cardiomyopathy. However, many things can cause the left ventricle to dilate and weaken, including:
Other possible causes of dilated cardiomyopathy include:
Risk factors for dilated cardiomyopathy include:
Complications of dilated cardiomyopathy include:
Healthy lifestyle habits can help prevent or reduce complications of dilated cardiomyopathy. Try these heart-smart strategies:
To diagnose dilated cardiomyopathy, your health care provider will do a physical exam and asks questions about your personal and family medical history. The provider will use a device called a stethoscope to listen to your heart and lungs. You may be referred to a doctor specializing in heart disease (cardiologist).
Tests to diagnose dilated cardiomyopathy include:
Treatment of dilated cardiomyopathy depends on the causes. The goals of treatment are to reduce symptoms, improve blood flow and prevent further heart damage. Dilated cardiomyopathy treatment may include medications or surgery to implant a medical device that helps the heart beat or pump blood.
A combination of medications may be used to treat dilated cardiomyopathy and prevent any complications. Medications are used to:
Drugs that are used to treat heart failure and dilated cardiomyopathy include:
Surgery may be needed to implant a device to control the heart's rhythm or help the heart pump blood. Type of devices used to treat dilated cardiomyopathy include:
If medications and other treatments for dilated cardiomyopathy no longer work, a heart transplant may be needed.
If you have dilated cardiomyopathy, these self-care strategies may help you manage your symptoms:
If you think you may have dilated cardiomyopathy or are worried about your risk because of a family history, make an appointment with your health care provider. Your provider may refer you to a doctor that specializes in heart diseases (cardiologist).
Here's information to help you get ready for your appointment.
For dilated cardiomyopathy, some basic questions include:
Your provider is likely to ask you several questions, including: