Cardiomyopathy describes diseases of the heart muscle. Within the spectrum of this broad disease, the heart muscle may become baggy and dilated, or alternatively, thickened and stiff. Both situations lead to inadequate circulatory volume delivered to the end organs. Cardiomyopathy may lead to congestive heart failure, blood clots, heart murmurs or arrhythmia.
Cardiomyopathy can be treated, although your WellStar Cardiac Network Physician will prescribe a treatment based on the type and severity of your condition. It can be acquired through complications from another disease or condition. You can inherit the condition from your parents. The main types of cardiomyopathy are:
- Dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart becomes weakened and enlarged (dilated). An idiopathic (unknown) dilated cardiomyopathy may occur after an upper respiratory tract infection, caused by a virus, in a patient with a sustained and untreated very rapid heart rate (tachycardia-induced cardiomyopathy), or after a large heart attack (ischemic cardiomyopathy). In this disorder, the most common form of cardiomyopathy, the pumping of the heart is less predictable, and more blood backs up into the lungs, legs, and abdomen.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disorder that involves abnormal growth or thickening of your heart muscle, most often in the left ventricle, the main pumping organ of the heart. As thickening occurs, the heart tends to stiffen and the size of the pumping chamber shrinks, thus interfering with the heart’s ability to deliver blood through the body.
- Restrictive cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle becomes rigid and less elastic. The heart cannot properly expand and fill with blood between heartbeats.
Many patients do not exhibit symptoms in the early stages of cardiomyopathy. When the condition advances, signs and symptoms usually appear. These may include:
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea) with minimal activity or when a patient lies down
- Fatigue, faintness and weakness
- Swelling (edema) of feet and ankles
- Swelling of the abdomen (ascites)
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat or pulse
People of all ages can have cardiomyopathy, although certain types of the disease appear more often in certain groups than others. For example, dilated cardiomyopathy is more common in men than in woman and in African-Americans than in Caucasians. Certain diseases, conditions or factors can raise your risk for cardiomyopathy. Such factors include:
- A family history of cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure or cardiac arrest
- High blood pressure
- Coronary artery disease
- Diabetes, other metabolic diseases or severe obesity
- Diseases that damage the heart
- Long-term, excessive alcohol use