What is cardiomyopathy?
"Cardio" refers to the heart. "Myopathy" refers to muscle that's not normal.
Cardiomyopathy is a heart disease that directly affects the heart muscle. The heart muscle is needed to pump blood.
A problem with your heart muscle keeps your heart from pumping blood properly
If your heart doesn't pump blood properly, you can be short of breath, weak and tired, and have swelling in your legs
Cardiomyopathy can be caused by certain heart infections, alcohol, certain medicines, or be an inherited heart muscle problem
Doctors do an ultrasound of your heart (echocardiography) and sometimes cardiac catheterization or MRI of your heart
Doctors will treat the cause of your cardiomyopathy and give you medicine to improve your heart's pumping, but sometimes you'll need heart surgery
Other diseases can stress and weaken your heart muscle. Examples include heart attacks Heart Attack A heart attack is when blood flow to part of your heart is suddenly blocked and some of your heart muscle dies. Doctors use the term myocardial infarction to refer to a heart attack. Myocardium... read more , bad heart valves Overview of Heart Valve Disorders Your heart is a muscle that pumps blood through your body. Your heart has four chambers. The atria are the two upper chambers in your heart—the right atrium and the left atrium. The ventricles... read more , and chronic high blood pressure High Blood Pressure Each heart beat pushes blood through your arteries. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to your body. Blood pressure is the pressure of blood in your arteries. Without... read more . But these diseases aren't considered cardiomyopathy because they only indirectly affect your heart muscle. In cardiomyopathy, the problem starts in your heart muscle.
What are the types of cardiomyopathy?
There are 3 types of cardiomyopathy:
Hypertrophic Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy includes a group of heart disorders in which the walls of the ventricles (the two lower chambers of the heart) thicken (hypertrophy) and become stiff. Most cases... read more : The walls of your heart become thick and stiff (hypertrophy)
What causes cardiomyopathy?
Often the cause of the cardiomyopathy is unknown. In some people, cardiomyopathy is caused by:
Certain viruses, such as coxsackie B virus or HIV, that can infect the heart
Drinking too much alcohol for a long time
Certain medicines, particularly some chemotherapy drugs
An inherited problem that makes your heart muscle grow too thick in places
Body-wide diseases that cause material to build up in your heart muscle and make it stiff
Poorly controlled diabetes Diabetes Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. You get diabetes if your body's normal way of controlling blood sugar isn't working right. There are 2 types of... read more or thyroid disease Overview of the Thyroid Gland Your thyroid is a gland below the Adam’s apple in the front of your neck. Glands make and release hormones. Hormones stimulate other cells or tissues into action. The thyroid makes thyroid hormones... read more
Body-wide diseases that cause material to build up in your heart muscle include amyloidosis Amyloidosis Amyloidosis is a rare disease in which abnormally folded proteins form amyloid fibrils that accumulate in various tissues and organs, sometimes leading to organ dysfunction, organ failure, and... read more , sarcoidosis Sarcoidosis Sarcoidosis is a disease in which small clumps of inflammatory cells form in one or more of your organs. The clumps of cells are called granulomas. They aren't cancerous. When you have sarcoidosis... read more , and hemochromatosis Hemochromatosis Hemochromatosis is a hereditary disorder that causes the body to absorb too much iron, causing iron to build up in the body and damage organs. In the United States, over 1 million people have... read more .
What are the symptoms of cardiomyopathy?
Cardiomyopathy may not cause symptoms at first. But eventually your heart stops pumping blood properly. This can cause heart failure symptoms Heart Failure :
Feeling short of breath
Getting tired easily
At first, you may notice symptoms only when you exert yourself.
Other symptoms can include:
Abnormal heart rhythms
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can cause sudden death in young athletes Sudden Cardiac Death in Athletes Sudden cardiac death in athletes is when someone dies suddenly from a heart problem brought on by exercise. Sudden cardiac death in athletes is rare (about 1 in 200,000 athletes) It can happen... read more . People may go into cardiac arrest Cardiac Arrest and CPR Cardiac arrest is when the heart stops pumping blood and oxygen to the brain and other organs and tissues. Sometimes a person can be revived after cardiac arrest, particularly if treatment is... read more with no warning.
How can doctors tell if I have cardiomyopathy?
To see if you have cardiomyopathy, doctors will do tests, such as:
Imaging tests, such as an MRI Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) MRI is a test that uses a machine with a powerful magnet to make pictures of the inside of your body. A computer records changes in the magnetic field around your body. The computer then uses... read more or echocardiography Echocardiography and Other Ultrasound Procedures Echocardiography can be used to detect abnormalities in heart wall motion and to measure the volume of blood being pumped from the heart with each beat. This procedure can also detect abnormalities... read more (an ultrasound of your heart)
Sometimes cardiac catheterization Cardiac Catheterization Cardiac catheterization (also called cardiac cath) is a heart procedure done in a hospital. The doctor puts a thin plastic tube (catheter) through an artery and into your heart. Doctors get... read more (doctors insert a thin, flexible tube in your heart's blood vessels), during which a small piece of heart tissue can also be taken (cardiac biopsy) and looked at under a microscope
Blood tests looking for a virus or body-wide conditions that can cause cardiomyopathy
How do doctors treat cardiomyopathy?
Doctors will treat the cause of your cardiomyopathy if possible. For example, if you have Chagas disease Chagas Disease Chagas disease is an infection caused by the protozoa Trypanosoma cruzi, which is transmitted by the bite of a kissing bug (also called an assassin or Triatominae bug). The protozoa ... read more , you'll get antibiotics. If you have hemochromatosis Hemochromatosis Hemochromatosis is a hereditary disorder that causes the body to absorb too much iron, causing iron to build up in the body and damage organs. In the United States, over 1 million people have... read more , you'll get treatments to remove excess iron from your body.
Different types of cardiomyopathy need different treatments, but these may include:
Medicine used for heart failure
Medicine to prevent blood clots
Sometimes a pacemaker Artificial Pacemakers There are many causes of abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias). Some arrhythmias are harmless and do not need treatment. Sometimes arrhythmias stop on their own or with changes in lifestyle,... read more or implantable defibrillator Cardioversion-Defibrillation There are many causes of abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias). Some arrhythmias are harmless and do not need treatment. Sometimes arrhythmias stop on their own or with changes in lifestyle,... read more (ICD)
If your heart keeps getting weaker despite these treatments, you may need a heart transplant Heart Transplantation Heart transplantation is the removal of a healthy heart from a recently deceased person and then its transfer into the body of a person who has a severe heart disorder that can no longer be... read more . If you have certain kinds of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, surgically removing some of the thickened heart muscle may help.
Doctors may also suggest that you:
Lower your stress
Eat less salt
Avoid exercise if you have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy