Dilated cardiomyopathy is a condition in which the heart becomes weakened and enlarged. As a result, the heart cannot pump enough blood to the rest of the body.
There are many types of cardiomyopathy. Dilated cardiomyopathy is the most common form.
Some experts use the term "dilated cardiomyopathy" for cases where the primary problem is with the muscle itself. This definition does not include weakness or enlargement that was caused by a heart attack or a heart valve problem.
The most common causes of dilated cardiomyopathy are:
There are many other causes of dilated cardiomyopathy, including:
This condition can affect anyone at any age. However, it is most common in adult men.
Symptoms of heart failure are most common. They most often develop slowly over time. However, sometimes symptoms start very suddenly and are severe.
Common symptoms are:
During the exam, the health care provider may find:
A number of laboratory tests may be done to determine the cause:
Heart enlargement or other problems with the structure and function of the heart (such as weak squeezing) may show up on these tests:
Heart biopsy, in which a small piece of heart muscle is removed, may be needed depending on the cause. However, this is rarely done.
Things you can do at home to take care of your condition include:
Most people who have heart failure need to take medicines. Some medicines treat your symptoms. Others may help prevent your heart failure from becoming worse, or may prevent other heart problems.
Procedures and surgeries you may need include:
For advanced cardiomyopathy:
Chronic heart failure becomes worse over time. Many people who have heart failure will die from the condition. Thinking about the type of care you may want at the end of life and discussing these issues with loved ones and your health care provider is important.
Heart failure is most often a chronic illness, which may get worse over time. Some people develop severe heart failure, in which medicines, other treatments, and surgery no longer help. Many people are at risk for deadly heart rhythms, and may need medicines or a defibrillator.
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of cardiomyopathy.
Get emergency medical help right away if you have chest pain, palpitations or fainting.
Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.