What is cardiomyopathy?
Cardiomyopathy (say: "car-dee-oh-my-ah-puh-thee") is a disease of the muscles in the heart. It can have many causes. It may be caused by coronary artery disease (blocked arteries), high blood pressure, infections, certain medicines, diabetes, thyroid disorders or alcohol abuse. Rarely, cardiomyopathy can happen during the last trimester of pregnancy or the first few months after having a baby.
What are the symptoms of cardiomyopathy?
Symptoms of cardiomyopathy may be the same as the symptoms of heart failure. These include the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble breathing, especially while lying down
- Edema (swelling) of the feet, ankles and legs
- Abdominal bloating
- Chest pain
- Dizziness, lightheadedness and fainting
Diagnosis & Tests
How is cardiomyopathy diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask about your personal and family medical history. It is important to tell your doctor if someone in your family has cardiomyopathy or another form of heart disease. Some of these conditions can run in families. Your doctor may do tests to see if you are at risk.
Your doctor will also examine you. He or she may do some tests on your heart and blood.
How is cardiomyopathy treated?
Treatment depends on the cause of the cardiomyopathy. For example, if you have high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medicine to help control it.
If you smoke or drink alcohol, your doctor will probably advise you to quit. You may need to lose weight if you are overweight or obese. Physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. However, you should check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Your doctor may prescribe medicine to treat cardiomyopathy. He or she may also suggest that you eat less than 2,300 mg of salt or less per day. Sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure and heart disease.
If you have heart failure, you may need a small device that is like a pacemaker to help your heart work correctly. You will need surgery to place the device in your body.
In serious cases, a person who has cardiomyopathy may need a heart transplant. A cardiologist (heart specialist) can help you and your doctor make that decision.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- What is the likely cause of my cardiomyopathy?
- If another condition is causing my cardiomyopathy, will treating that condition cure me of my symptoms?
- What is the best treatment for me? Medicine? Surgery?
- Do I need to make any lifestyle changes?
- Am I at risk of heart failure?
- Will I need a heart transplant?