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Chest painCardiomyopathy is a serious condition of the heart, in which the heart muscles become inflammed and weakened. As a result of this, the heart doesn't work as well as it should, pumping blood less effectively. Eventually, this can lead to heart failure.

Cardiomyopathy may be classified as being Primary, in which there is no attributable cause, or Secondary, in which the cardiomyopathy is due to a specific cause, such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease, heart valve disease, viral infections etc.

There are 3 main types of Cardiomyopathy:

1. Dilated Cardiomyopathy

2. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

3. Restrictive Cardiomyopathy


What are the Symptoms of Cardiomyopathy?

In the early stages of cardiomyopathy, there may be no symptoms at all. As the condition progresses, the following symptoms may be experienced, and they may get progressively more severe if the condition is left untreated.

• Shortness of breath (on exertion or at rest)
• Fatigue
• Swelling of the feet, ankles and legs
• Giddiness, lightheadedness
• Fainting spells
• Palpitations 

What can cause Cardiomyopathy?

When there is an underlying condition which can lead to the development of cardiomyopathy, the cardiomyopathy is classified as being Secondary. Possible causes of cardiomyopathy include (this is not an exhaustive list): 

• Chronic high blood pressure

• Heart muscle damage from previous heart attacks

• Heart valve problems

• Certain viral infections causing viral myocarditis

• Chronic excessive alcohol consumption

• Nutritional deficiencies

What is Dilated (Congestive) Cardiomyopathy?

This is the most common form of cardiomyopathy. In dilated cardiomyopathy, the heart cavity becomes dilated (enlarged) and its ability to pump blood becomes significantly reduced. Many patients with dilated cardiomyopathy go on to develop heart failure. Abnormal heart rhythms may also develop.

The dilated heart also has areas within its chambers where blood flow is stagnant/slow (known as "stasis"). This makes the development of a blood clot (thrombus) more likely, and if this "thrombus" dislodges and is pumped out of the heart, it can cause ischaemic conditions such as a stroke.

What is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy?

In this type of cardiomyopathy, the heart muscles are abnormally thickened and enlarged. As the muscles get thicker, the size of the heart's chambers get reduced, interfering with the heart's ability to deliver blood to the body.

In one form of the disease, the wall (septum) between the two ventricles becomes enlarged and obstructs the blood flow from the left ventricle. This syndrome is known as hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy (H.O.C.M.). It has also historically been known as asymmetric septal hypertrophy (A.S.H.) or idiopathic hypertrophic subaortic stenosis (I.H.S.S.).

Besides obstructing blood flow, the thickened wall sometimes distorts one leaflet of the mitral valve, causing it to leak.

What is Restrictive Cardiomyopathy?

The heart muscles in restrictive cardiomyopathy are rigid and less elastic, reducing the heart's ability to expand adequately. Unless the chambers of the heart can adequately fill up with blood during the process of dilatation (when the heart relaxes), the heart cannot pump out sufficient volumes of blood.

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Further Reading

The article above is meant to provide general information and does not replace a doctor's consultation.
Please see your doctor for professional advice.