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Mercy Heart & Vascular Services

Conditions - Cardiomyopathy


Cardiomyopathy is a genetic or acquired condition where a diseased heart becomes enlarged and the muscle tissue can become thick and scarred. There are some non-genetic conditions that have been linked to an increased risk of forms of cardiomyopathy including viral infections, certain medications, and auto-immune diseases. The condition weakens the heart which affects its ability to effectively pump blood throughout the body. Cardiomyopathy can create numerous complications including arrhythmia, heart failure, and heart valve problems.

While people with cardiomyopathy have no initial symptoms, over time signs including trouble breathing, fatigue and body swelling can indicate possible heart failure. There are three major types of cardiomyopathy: dilated, hypertrophic, and restrictive.
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM): with DCM a patient’s left ventricle becomes stretched or dilated, weakening the heart muscle and causing blood to not be efficiently pumped through the heart. As a result fluid builds up in the body and a patient feels breathless, a condition known as heart failure. In some cases blood can flow in the opposite direction (from the left ventricle to left atrium), a condition known as ‘mitral regurgitation.’
  • Hypertropic cardiomyopathy (HCM or HOCM): a genetic condition where one part of your heart muscle is thicker than other parts. While HCM can be asymptomatic (meaning no symptoms are present), you may feel fatigue, chest pain, dizziness, high blood pressure, shortness of breath and heart palpitations.
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy: a rare form of cardiomyopathy where your heart is unable to properly relax between heartbeats and therefore blood does not pump efficiently. Restrictive cardiomyopathy can be a genetic condition or as a result of unknown scarring or after a heart transplant. In addition to common cardiomyopathy symptoms restrictive cardiomyopathy can cause low urine production, low blood pressure, weak pulse, pale skin, poor growth (for children), chest pain, cough, and difficulty breathing when lying flat or during exercise.
While there is no known cure for cardiomyopathy your cardiologist’s goal is to control symptoms and improve your quality of life. Treatments may include drug therapies, pacemaker or internal cardiac defibrillator (ICD) implantation and in rare cases you may be referred for a heart transplant evaluation.

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