What Is Cardiomyopathy Know Its Symptoms Causes and treatment

What Is Cardiomyopathy Know Its Symptoms Causes and treatment

Cardiomyopathy is a heart disease, which is often considered a progressive condition where the heart gets enlarged, thickened, or stiffened. This incapacitates the heart muscles to pump blood, leading to heart failure.

Cardiomyopathy is a heart disease, which is often considered a progressive condition where the heart gets enlarged, thickened, or stiffened. This incapacitates the heart muscles to pump blood, leading to heart failure. As a result of cardiomyopathy the heart rhythms could also become abnormal. The disease weakens the heart and poses the threat of cardiac arrest. 

It is linked to hereditary, but most often its causes are not known. 

Types of cardiomyopathy

Primarily, there are three types of cardiomyopathy. They are:

  1. Dilated cardiomyopathy
  2. Ischemic cardiomyopathy
  3. Restrictive cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a health condition that reduces the heart’s ability to pump blood as its main pumping chamber, called the left ventricle, becomes enlarged and weak. In certain scenarios, it restricts the heart from filling with blood in the normal way. With time this may affect other chambers of the heart as well. 

Know its symptoms:

A stitch in time saves nine. Awareness of symptoms can help get the right treatment at the right time for dilated cardiomyopathy. However, in this type, many people do not notice any symptoms. Some may have minor symptoms and they lead a normal life. Others may develop the following symptoms, which exacerbate with time, making the heart sicker.

The symptoms of DCM may become apparent irrespective of one’s age and they are:

  • Breathlessness
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Fainting
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Palpitations (One might experience fluttering in the chest because of abnormal heart rhythms)
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Sudden death
  • Blood clots in the dilated left ventricle 

When a blood clot breaks off, it disrupts blood flow to the brain which causes a stroke. A clot might also block blood flow to the organs in the abdomen or legs. 

So, what causes DCM?

Although DCM is blamed on the genes, it might also be caused by other things, such as:

  • Acute coronary artery disease
  • Thyroid
  • Diabetes
  • Viral infections in the heart
  • Heart damage caused by certain medicinal side-effects 
  • Heart valve abnormalities
  • Alcoholism 

There is also a type of DCM called postpartum cardiomyopathy inflicting some women after childbirth.


To diagnose dilated cardiomyopathy doctors will consider the family history and the symptoms of the patient before conducting a series of tests like: 


There is a range of treatments for dilated cardiomyopathy depending on the severity of the symptoms. The main purpose of the treatment procedure is to make the heart stronger and extricate substances in the bloodstream that causes the heart to enlarge and deteriorate further. 

There are medications the doctor would suggest depending on individual cases. The options include Beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and diuretics among others. Lifestyle changes also have a positive impact on dilated cardiomyopathy and the doctor may suggest consuming less sodium, doing certain exercises (but not lifting weights), etc. However, one should never attempt to do any exercises without consulting a physician.  

Talking about other procedures, doctors may advise a pacemaker, heart surgery, heart transplant, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD), etc. 

Ischemic cardiomyopathy

Ischemic cardiomyopathy refers to a medical condition with damaged heart muscle for which it is unable to pump blood well. Mostly, this damage is caused by coronary artery disease restricting the sufficient supply of oxygen-rich blood into the heart. 

Its treatments range from medicines to surgeries. The inadequate supply of pure oxygenated blood into the heart weakens and enlarges the left ventricle, already mentioned as the main pumping chamber of the heart. This, in turn, reduces the heart’s ability to pump blood. Ischemic cardiomyopathy is the commonest dilated cardiomyopathy and the world’s leading cause of systolic heart failure.

Know its symptoms

There are a slew of symptoms you can notice for ischemic cardiomyopathy such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in your legs and feet (edema)
  • Fatigue in carrying out day-to-day chores
  • Angina (although less common)
  • Weight gain, cough & congestion 
  • Palpitations 
  • Dizziness 
  • Fainting

There could also be patients who might not exhibit any symptoms of ischemic cardiomyopathy.

What are the causes of ischemic cardiomyopathy and risk factors?

The major causes of ischemic cardiomyopathy are as follows:

  • Coronary artery disease, the most common of all
  • Heart attack
  • Coronary artery dissection
  • Coronary vasculitis
  • Fibromuscular dysplasia
  • Coronary microvascular disease
  • Prinzmetal angina

Risk factors for ischemic cardiomyopathy include hereditary, high blood pressure, using tobacco, suffering from diabetes, high cholesterol, BMI more than 30, sedentary lifestyle, heart attack, etc. 


The doctor will diagnose ischemic cardiomyopathy by evaluating the medical history of the patient, examining the symptoms, genes, and a thorough physical examination through numerous tests. 

The tests for ischemic cardiomyopathy include:

  • Blood tests
  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE)
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Exercise stress test
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • Nuclear medicine imaging etc


The procedures and treatment for ischemic cardiomyopathy include medicines, implanting devices, addressing heart failure symptoms, treating coronary artery disease, advising lifestyle changes, and interventions like surgeries among others.

Lifestyle changes can prevent ischemic cardiomyopathy to a great extent. Hence, leading a healthy life and shunning unhealthy habits can go a long way to keep this condition at bay.

Restrictive cardiomyopathy

Restrictive cardiomyopathy (RCM) refers to the stiffening of the lower chambers (called ventricles) of the heart incapacitating to fill with blood. This can lead to heart failure. The symptoms of restrictive cardiomyopathy may vary according to the severity of the condition. Physicians give medication to address heart failure symptoms. 

A couple of other names for restrictive cardiomyopathy are idiopathic restrictive cardiomyopathy and infiltrative cardiomyopathy.

Know the symptoms of RCM

Understanding the symptoms of restrictive cardiomyopathy is important because it may not present itself with any initially. However, when the condition worsens it may cause heart failure. The palpable signs of PCM include:

  • Bloating or nausea
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Chest pain (be it at rest or while exercising)
  • Edema in your feet and legs
  • Fatigue
  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Putting on weight 

Causes of RCM

One may develop restrictive cardiomyopathy due to any of the following reasons:

  • Amyloidosis
  • Hemochromatosis 
  • Connective tissue disease
  • Sarcoidosis

One is also more likely to develop restrictive cardiomyopathy after certain cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.


Doctors conduct a detailed physical examination to diagnose restrictive cardiomyopathy. Physicians usually listen to a patient’s heartbeat and take the blood pressure. They will look for an echocardiogram report to come to a conclusion and check if the heart ventricles are functioning properly. 

A few regular tests doctors advise for restrictive cardiomyopathy include:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Cardiac CT scan
  • Chest X-ray
  • Heart MRI
  • Exercise stress test
  • Right heart catheterization
  • Heart PET scan
  • Myocardial biopsy
  • Genetic testing


There is no particular treatment for restrictive cardiomyopathy and the doctors will try to address the causes that might have led to it. In case of heart failure symptoms healthcare providers may advise the following:

  • Corticosteroids (in case of sarcoidosis)
  • Diuretics
  • Medications to treat heartbeat irregularities 
  • Therapeutic phlebotomy (removing blood removal for hemochromatosis)
  • Medications to address certain types of amyloidosis

In some cases, patients with restrictive cardiomyopathy may need heart transplant surgeries as well. At times, some patients are put under palliative care also. 


Although it is hereditary to develop heart conditions like cardiomyopathy, a lot depends on people’s choices and lifestyles too. Taking preventive care and heeding a physician’s advice at the outset can help patients with cardiomyopathy in getting better treatment and lead a healthy life.