For Patients: Understanding Your Cardiomyopathy Diagnosis

Cardiomyopathy can be a diverse diagnosis. There are many different types – some hereditary, others due to injury to the heart, side effects of treatment, pregnancy and a range of other causes. What they have in common is that they are diseases of the heart muscle (myocardium) which can lead to reduced blood pumping efficiency and lead to heart failure.

This is the first episode of an ongoing series that will help explain the condition and how it is generally managed, although your individual case may vary and is best discussed thoroughly with your doctor.

Does a cardiomyopathy diagnosis mean I have heart failure?

Not necessarily, although cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure.

What are the types of cardiomyopathy?

The main types of cardiomyopathy are dilated, hypertrophic and restrictive.

In restrictive cardiomyopathy, the heart becomes stiff, scarred, or both. It can pump blood well but does not fully relax to allow blood to fill the pumping chamber. This creates a “traffic jam” in the heart, so fluid builds up in the lungs and increases pressure in other parts of the heart.

In dilated cardiomyopathy, the walls of the heart’s blood-pumping chambers stretch and thin. At first, this allows them to hold more blood to pump, but the muscle cannot compress properly and becomes weak, which can lead to heart failure.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy occurs when the heart muscle becomes thickened, which may prevent blood from flowing from one part of the heart to another or may prevent it from relaxing between beats to allow it to fill with blood to pump .

Other types include arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD), amyloid transthyretin cardiomyopathy (ATTR-CM), broken heart syndrome (stress-induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo), chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy, and peripartum cardiomyopathy .

Who Gets Cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy can occur at any age, including children and adolescents. Family history, a previous heart attack, diabetes, and other factors may contribute to risk. Cardiomyopathy affects approximately 1 in 500 adults.

What are the symptoms of cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy may have no symptoms, especially at first. As the condition worsens, you may begin to experience tiredness (fatigue), rapid heartbeat (palpitations), shortness of breath (dyspnea) and swelling (edema) in your legs, calves or ankles.

MedPage today‘Pathways’ is a collection of physician-reviewed clinical resources for physicians and other healthcare professionals and the patients they serve. Each episode of this 12-part journey through a medical condition contains both a doctor’s guide and a downloadable/printable patient resource. “Medical pathways” chart a path at every stage for physicians and patients and provide ongoing resources and support as the healthcare team navigates the course of an illness.

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