Dilated cardiomyopathy


Dilated cardiomyopathy is a form of heart muscle illness in which the ventricles tissue thins as it enlarges, causing it to pump with less force. More blood remains in the heart’s chambers after each beat which makes it difficult to keep up with the needs of the body. It does not only affect the heart chambers but also the other parts of the heart.

Dilated cardiomyopathy occurs when the left ventricle of the heart enlarges. This impairs the heart’s ability to pump blood to the rest of the body. Severe cases of this condition can lead to heart failure and other complications.

A person suffering with dilated cardiomyopathy may not notice any symptoms at first. Its symptoms can sometimes be mistaken for other medical diseases. However, dilated cardiomyopathy can be fatal. It is a leading cause of heart failure. Common symptoms include weariness and shortness of breath.

Dilated cardiomyopathy treatment may include drugs, surgical procedure to allow installation of a medical device that can assist the heart in pumping blood, or a heart transplant. Lifestyle modifications can make medications work better and possibly help delay or avoid surgery.


Symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy usually become noticeable when the heart’s function deteriorates. However, in most cases, no signs and symptoms occur in early stages of the condition.

A cardiac murmur is frequently the first sign of dilated cardiomyopathy. Other signs and symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue or tiredness that is out of the ordinary
  • Dyspnea, or difficulty breathing while doing activity or lying down
  • Edema, or swelling of the legs, ankles, foot, or abdomen
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Palpitations or fluttering of the chest
  • Fainting
  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Unexpected weight increase as a result of fluid retention
  • Impaired capacity to exercise

Since dilated cardiomyopathy can be associated with heart failure, having chest pain that lasts longer than a few minutes or having serious breathing difficulties can be a medical emergency. Go to the nearest hospital right away. If other signs and symptoms persist, visit a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

Some kinds of dilated cardiomyopathy are inherited, also known as familial dilated cardiomyopathy. Genetic testing is advised to those with a family member that has dilated cardiomyopathy.


Most cases of dilated cardiomyopathy have no known cause. However, many factors can cause the left ventricle to dilate and weaken. When experts identify a reason, it may be related to the following:

  • Specific infections, such as myocarditis
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Mitral valve or aortic valve regurgitation, or other heart valve disease
  • Late-stage pregnancy or immediately after delivery complications
  • Hemochromatosis, or abnormally high levels of iron
  • Diabetes
  • Abnormal heart rhythm, or arrhythmias
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Excessive weight gain

It may also be caused by:

  • Alcohol-use disorder
  • Use of certain medications to treat cancer
  • Use of recreational drugs, such as cocaine or amphetamines
  • Excessive toxin exposure, such as lead, mercury and cobalt
  • Thyroid disease
  • Viral infections, such as HIV and viral hepatitis

Risk factors

Several factors may affect the one’s susceptibility to dilated cardiomyopathy, such as:

  • A history of dilated cardiomyopathy, heart failure, or sudden cardiac arrest in the family
  • Heart muscle damage caused by illnesses such as hemochromatosis
  • Heart muscle inflammation caused by immune system illnesses such as lupus
  • Muscular dystrophy and other neuromuscular disorders
  • Heart valve disorder
  • Excessive alcohol or illegal drug use
  • Chronic high blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Blood clots in the heart
  • Angina, or chest pain