Cardiomyopathy

Heart Disease

What is cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is a disease that changes the structure of the muscle tissue in the heart, or makes it weaker, so it’s less able to pump blood efficiently.

Symptoms may appear suddenly with loss of consciousness, or there may be warning signs such as pain in the chest (angina), unexplained breathlessness or a rapid heartbeat (palpitations or arrhythmia).

Cardiomyopathy may be either:

  • Primary – no specific cause can be identified
  • Secondary – causes can be identified, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), heart valve disease, artery diseases or congenital heart defects, as well as disease affecting organs other than the heart. Alcohol and drug use (both street drugs and medical drugs) can also cause cardiomyopathies

There are three main types of cardiomyopathy or disease of the heart muscle:

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – the most common cause of sudden and unexpected death in people under 30
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy – the most common type of cardiomyopathy
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy – the least common type, usually seen in the elderly
  • Symptoms of cardiomyopathy

    The symptoms may depend on the type of cardiomyopathy. It may present at any age, causing:

    • Breathlessness on exercise
    • Chest pain
    • Palpitations
    • Dizziness
    • Collapse with loss of consciousness
    • Tiredness and general lack of energy
    • Blood clot formation with pulmonary emboli or stroke
    • In the most severe cases, sudden death
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