This disease of the heart muscle makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. Learn the different types and how they're treated.
Cardiomyopathy (kahr-dee-o-my-OP-uh-thee) is a disease of the heart muscle that makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. Cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure.
The main types of cardiomyopathy include dilated, hypertrophic and restrictive cardiomyopathy. Treatment — which might include medications, surgically implanted devices, heart surgery or, in severe cases, a heart transplant — depends on the type of cardiomyopathy and how serious it is.
There might be no signs or symptoms in the early stages of cardiomyopathy. But as the condition advances, signs and symptoms usually appear, including:
Signs and symptoms tend to get worse unless treated. In some people, the condition worsens quickly; in others, it might not worsen for a long time.
See your health care provider if you have one or more signs or symptoms associated with cardiomyopathy. Call 911 or your local emergency number if you have severe difficulty breathing, fainting or chest pain that lasts for more than a few minutes.
Some types of cardiomyopathy can be passed down through families (inherited). If you have the condition, your health care provider might recommend that your family members be checked.
Often the cause of the cardiomyopathy is unknown. In some people, however, it's the result of another condition (acquired) or passed on from a parent (inherited).
Certain health conditions or behaviors that can lead to acquired cardiomyopathy include:
Types of cardiomyopathy include:
Dilated cardiomyopathy. In this type of cardiomyopathy, the heart's main pumping chamber — the left ventricle — becomes enlarged (dilated) and can't effectively pump blood out of the heart.
Although this type can affect people of all ages, it occurs most often in middle-aged people and is more likely to affect men. The most common cause is coronary artery disease or heart attack. However, it can also be caused by genetic changes.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This type involves abnormal thickening of the heart muscle, which makes it harder for the heart to work. It mostly affects the muscle of the heart's main pumping chamber (left ventricle).
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can develop at any age, but the condition tends to be more severe if it occurs during childhood. Most people with this type of cardiomyopathy have a family history of the disease. Some genetic changes have been linked to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Restrictive cardiomyopathy. In this type, the heart muscle becomes stiff and less flexible, so it can't expand and fill with blood between heartbeats. This least common type of cardiomyopathy can occur at any age, but it most often affects older people.
Restrictive cardiomyopathy can occur for no known reason (idiopathic), or it can by caused by a disease elsewhere in the body that affects the heart, such as amyloidosis.
Dilated cardiomyopathy causes the chambers of the heart to grow larger. Untreated, dilated cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure.
There are a number of things that can increase your risk of cardiomyopathy, including:
Many diseases also raise your risk of cardiomyopathy, including:
Cardiomyopathy can lead to serious complications, including:
If the heart weakens, as it can with heart failure, it begins to enlarge. This forces the heart to work harder to pump blood to the rest of the body.
In many cases, there's no prevention for cardiomyopathy. Let your health care provider know if you have a family history of the condition.
You can help reduce your risk of cardiomyopathy and other types of heart disease by living a heart-healthy lifestyle, including:
Your health care provider is likely to perform a physical examination and ask questions about your personal and family medical history. You'll also be asked when your symptoms occur — for example, whether exercise triggers your symptoms. If your provider thinks you have cardiomyopathy, several tests may be done to confirm the diagnosis, including:
Cardiac catheterization. A thin tube (catheter) is inserted into the groin and threaded through blood vessels to the heart. Pressure within the chambers of the heart can be measured to see how forcefully blood pumps through the heart. Dye can be injected through the catheter into blood vessels to make them more visible on X-rays (coronary angiogram). Cardiac catheterization can reveal blockages in blood vessels.
This test might also involve removal of a small tissue sample (biopsy) from the heart for laboratory analysis.
Blood tests. Several blood tests might be done, including those to check kidney, thyroid and liver function and to measure iron levels.
One blood test can measure B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP), a protein produced in the heart. A blood level of BNP might rise during heart failure, a common complication of cardiomyopathy.
The goals of cardiomyopathy treatment are to:
The type of treatment depends on the type of cardiomyopathy and its severity.
Many different types of medications are used to treat cardiomyopathy. Medications for cardiomyopathy can help:
Nonsurgical procedures used to treat cardiomyopathy or arrhythmia include:
Several types of devices can be surgically implanted in the heart to improve its function and relieve symptoms, including:
Types of surgery used to treat cardiomyopathy include:
These lifestyle changes can help you manage cardiomyopathy:
If you think you may have cardiomyopathy or are worried about your risk, make an appointment with your health care provider. He or she may refer you to a heart specialist (cardiologist).
Here's information to help you get ready for your appointment.
Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
Make a list of:
Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember the information you're given.
For cardiomyopathy, some basic questions to ask your provider include:
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
Your doctor is likely to ask you questions, including: