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What Is Cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy (KAR-de-o-mi-OP-ah-thee) refers to diseases of the heart muscle. These diseases have many causes, signs and symptoms, and treatments.

In cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle becomes enlarged, thick, or rigid. In rare cases, the muscle tissue in the heart is replaced with scar tissue.

As cardiomyopathy worsens, the heart becomes weaker. It's less able to pump blood through the body and maintain a normal electrical rhythm. This can lead to heart failure or irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias (ah-RITH-me-ahs). In turn, heart failure can cause fluid to build up in the lungs, ankles, feet, legs, or abdomen.

The weakening of the heart also can cause other complications, such as heart valve problems.

Overview

The main types of cardiomyopathy are:

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy
  • Hypertrophic (hi-per-TROF-ik) cardiomyopathy
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy
  • Arrhythmogenic (ah-rith-mo-JEN-ik) right ventricular dysplasia
    (dis-PLA-ze-ah)

Other types of cardiomyopathy sometimes are referred to as "unclassified cardiomyopathy."

Cardiomyopathy can be acquired or inherited. "Acquired" means you aren't born with the disease, but you develop it due to another disease, condition, or factor. "Inherited" means your parents passed the gene for the disease on to you. Many times, the cause of cardiomyopathy isn't known.

Cardiomyopathy can affect people of all ages. However, people in certain age groups are more likely to have certain types of cardiomyopathy. This article focuses on cardiomyopathy in adults.

Outlook

Some people who have cardiomyopathy have no signs or symptoms and need no treatment. For other people, the disease develops quickly, symptoms are severe, and serious complications occur.

Treatments for cardiomyopathy include lifestyle changes, medicines, surgery, implanted devices to correct arrhythmias, and a nonsurgical procedure. These treatments can control symptoms, reduce complications, and stop the disease from getting worse.

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Cardiomyopathy Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Cardiomyopathy, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.


Cardiomyopathy in the News

September 3, 2013
Risk factors identified at diagnosis help predict outcomes for children with rare heart condition
A long-term study of children with a complex heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) found that risk factors identified at diagnosis help to predict outcomes for children with this rare condition.

View all Cardiomyopathy Press Releases


 
January 01, 2011 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.