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Cardiomyopathy types and symptoms

What is cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscles. It can affect the size and shape of the heart, causing an enlarged heart, as well as affect the electrical signals that usually make the heart beat in a regular rhythm.

The main types of cardiomyopathy are:

1. Dilated cardiomyopathy

With dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) the heart muscle becomes stretched and thin and less able to pump blood around the body. Symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy include shortness of breath, swollen ankles or abdomen, tiredness and palpitations.

DCM is usually inherited, caused by a genetic defect. However, dilated cardiomyopathy may result from some viral infections, high blood pressure, heart valve problems or excessive alcohol use. It can also develop in pregnancy.
Dilated cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure.

Tests that may be arranged to diagnose dilated cardiomyopathy include an ECG to check the heart's electrical activity, an echocardiogram to check the way the heart is pumping, an exercise test, an angiogram to look inside the arteries or an MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging).

Treatment for dilated cardiomyopathy will depend on the severity of the condition and the symptoms being experienced. Medication may be prescribed to manage high blood pressure or to help correct abnormal heart rhythms. A heart pacemaker or ICD ( implantable cardioverter defibrillator) may be recommended.

2. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is an inherited condition in which the muscle wall of the heart called the myocardium becomes thick, making it harder for the heart to pump blood around the body.

Symptoms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy include being short of breath, having chest pain, palpitations or feeling light headed.

Tests that may be arranged to diagnose hypertrophic cardiomyopathy include an ECG to check the heart's electrical activity, an echocardiogram to check the way the heart is pumping, an exercise test, an angiogram to look inside the arteries or an MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging).

Treatment for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy will depend on the severity of the condition and the symptoms being experienced. Medication may be prescribed to manage high blood pressure or to help correct abnormal heart rhythms. A heart pacemaker or ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator) may be recommended.

3. Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy

Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) is a rare inherited condition in which heart muscle cells are gradually replaced with fatty tissue, weakening the heart making it less able to pump blood around the body.

Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy may not cause any symptoms at first. As the condition develops, a person may experience palpitations, feel light headed or faint and have an abnormal heart rhythm. There is also a risk of sudden death brought on by exercise or exertion.

If the right ventricle of the heart is affected, a person may also get swelling in the ankles, legs or abdomen. If the left ventricle is affected, breathlessness may be experienced and there is a risk of heart failure.

4. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is also known as broken heart syndrome, acute stress cardiomyopathy, or apical ballooning syndrome. This temporary weakening of the heart muscles, often brought on by stress, is a medical emergency and an ambulance should be called by dialling 999.

The symptoms of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy are similar to a heart attack, with chest pain and breathlessness.

Diagnosis of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy involves tests to see if the left ventricle of the heart has changed shape. There is no treatment to make the ventricle go back to normal, but this should happen on its own after some days or weeks.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 17, 2017

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