What is Cardiomyopathy and How Serious is it?

Cardiomyopathy may affect up to one in every 500 people. Learn more about the different types of cardiomyopathy, causes, symptoms and treatment options.

Cardiomyopathy is a general term for diseases of the heart muscle. Depending on the type of cardiomyopathy you have, the condition may cause your heart muscle to become enlarged, rigid, thick or thin. In rare cases, the normal muscle tissue of the heart is replaced with scar tissue.

Over time, cardiomyopathy can weaken the heart, negatively affecting its ability to maintain a normal electric rhythm and/or pump enough blood to the body. This can lead to a variety of issues and complications, including arrhythmias, heart valve problems and even heart failure.

Types of Cardiomyopathy

Causes

Cardiomyopathy is a condition that can be “acquired” or “inherited.” Acquired means that you weren’t born with the disease, but it developed over time because of another condition or influencing factor. Inherited means the condition was passed on to you by a parent.

Cardiomyopathy can affect patients of all ages, but this post mainly focuses on adults.

Signs, Symptoms and Potential Complications

In the early stages of cardiomyopathy, you may not experience any signs or symptoms, but as the condition advances, signs and symptoms of heart failure usually appear, including:

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Chronic coughing or wheezing
  • Rapid or irregular heart rate
  • Build-up of fluid and swelling (edema)
  • Nausea or lack of appetite
  • Fatigue or feeling light-headed
  • Confusion or impaired thinking

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

Treatment Options

While early-stage cardiomyopathy may not require treatment, most patients will need some form of medical intervention. The optimal course of treatment will depend on the type of cardiomyopathy, the age and general health of the patient and the severity of their symptoms and/or complications.

Treatment options for cardiomyopathy include heart-healthy lifestyle changes, medicine, nonsurgical procedures, surgery, implantable devices and heart transplantation.

More Information

For in-depth information about cardiomyopathy, associated conditions, treatment options and more, refer to the websites and resources listed below: