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What Is Cardiomyopathy?
As cardiomyopathy worsens, the heart becomes weaker. It's less able to pump blood through the body and maintain a normal electrical rhythm. This can lead to heart failure or irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias. In turn, heart failure can cause fluid to build up in the lungs, ankles, feet, legs, or abdomen. The weakening of the heart also can cause other complications, such as heart valve problems.
Cardiomyopathy can be acquired or inherited. "Acquired" means you aren't born with the disease, but you develop it due to another disease, condition, or factor. "Inherited" means your parents passed the gene for the disease on to you. Many times, the cause of cardiomyopathy isn't known.
Cardiomyopathy can affect people of all ages. However, people in certain age groups are more likely to have certain types of cardiomyopathy. This article focuses on cardiomyopathy in adults.
The types of cardiomyopathy include:
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is very common and can affect people of any age. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy affects men and women equally, and about 1 out of every 500 people has the disease.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy happens when the heart muscle enlarges and thickens without an obvious cause. Usually the ventricles, the lower chambers of the heart, and septum (the wall that separates the left and right side of the heart) thicken. The thickened areas create narrowing or blockages in the ventricles, making it harder for the heart to pump blood. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy also can cause stiffness of the ventricles, changes in the mitral valve, and cellular changes in the heart tissue.
Dilated cardiomyopathy develops when the ventricles enlarge and weaken. The condition usually starts in the left ventricle and over time can affect the right ventricle. The weakened chambers of the heart don’t pump effectively, causing the heart muscle to work harder. Over time, the heart loses the ability to pump blood effectively. Dilated cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure, heart valve disease, irregular heart rate, and blood clots in the heart.
Restrictive cardiomyopathy develops when the ventricles become stiff and rigid but the walls of the heart do not thicken. As a result, the ventricles do not relax and don’t fill with the normal blood volume. As the disease progresses, the ventricles do not pump as well and the heart muscle weakens. Over time, restrictive cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure and problems with the heart valves.
Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia
Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia is a rare type of cardiomyopathy that occurs when the muscle tissue in the right ventricle is replaced with fatty or fibrous tissue. This can lead to disruptions in the heart’s electrical signals and causes arrhythmias. Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia usually affects teens or young adults and can cause sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes.
Other types of cardiomyopathy are grouped into this category and can include:
Signs and Symptoms
Some people who have cardiomyopathy never have signs or symptoms. Others don't have signs or symptoms in the early stages of the disease.
As cardiomyopathy worsens and the heart weakens, signs and symptoms of heart failure usually occur. These signs and symptoms include:
Cardiomyopathy can be acquired or inherited. “Acquired” means you aren’t born with the disease, but you develop it due to another disease, condition, or factor.
“Inherited” means your parents passed the gene for the disease on to you. Researchers continue to look for the genetic links to cardiomyopathy and to explore how these links cause or contribute to the various types of the disease.
Many times, the cause of cardiomyopathy isn’t known. This often is the case when the disease occurs in children.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy usually is inherited. It’s caused by a mutation or change in some of the genes in heart muscle proteins. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy also can develop over time because of high blood pressure, aging, or other diseases, such as diabetes or thyroid disease. Sometimes the cause of the disease isn’t known.
The cause of dilated cardiomyopathy often isn’t known. About one-third of the people who have dilated cardiomyopathy inherit it from their parents.
Certain diseases, conditions, and substances also can cause the disease, such as:
Certain diseases, conditions, and factors can cause restrictive cardiomyopathy, including:
Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia
Researchers think that arrhythmogenic right
ventricular dysplasia is an inherited disease.
Many medicines are used to treat cardiomyopathy.
Your doctor may prescribe medicines to:
amount of your medicine or skip a dose unless your doctor tells you to.
People who have cardiomyopathy but no signs or symptoms may not need treatment. Sometimes, dilated cardiomyopathy that comes on suddenly may go away on its own. For other people who have cardiomyopathy, treatment is needed. Treatment depends on the type of cardiomyopathy you have, the severity of your symptoms and complications, and your age and overall health. Treatments may include:
Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Changes
Your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes to manage a condition that’s causing your cardiomyopathy including:
Info on this page was last updated and verified on May 14th, 2018 P.S.T.