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Related terms: dilated cardiomyopathy, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), ischemic cardiomyopathy, restrictive cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy means "disease of the heart muscle." Cardiomyopathy damages the muscle tone of the heart and reduces its ability to pump blood to the rest of the body.

About 500,000 Americans have cardiomyopathy, and many do not even know they have the condition. Cardiomyopathy is a leading cause of heart failure and the most common reason for needing a heart transplant.

Cardiomyopathy is so dangerous because it often goes unrecognized and untreated. Also, it is different from other heart problems because it frequently affects younger people. There are 4 main types of cardiomyopathy. Click below to learn more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy is the most common form of cardiomyopathy. Also called congestive cardiomyopathy, it affects the chambers of the heart by weakening their walls. In most cases, doctors do not know the cause of dilated cardiomyopathy.  When the cause is unknown, it is called idiopathic.

See also on this site: Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the second most common form of cardiomyopathy, causes a thickening of the heart's walls. Most often, it is an inherited disease, but sometimes the cause is not clear. It can affect people of all ages.

See also on this site: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Restrictive Cardiomyopathy

In the United States, restrictive cardiomyopathy is rare. It gets its name because the condition restricts the heart from stretching properly, which limits the amount of blood that can fill the heart's chambers.

See also on this site: Restrictive Cardiomyopathy

Ischemic cardiomyopathy

Cardiac ischemia happens when an artery leading to the heart becomes narrowed or blocked for a short time and oxygen-rich blood cannot reach your heart. In most cases of ischemia, this temporary blood shortage to the heart causes pain in the chest (called angina pectoris). In certain other cases, there is no pain. These cases are called silent ischemia.

Ischemic cardiomyopathy is the loss or weakening of heart muscle tissue caused by ischemia or silent ischemia. The ischemia usually results from coronary artery disease and heart attacks. Treatment for ischemic cardiomyopathy is similar to that for other forms of cardiomyopathy, with special attention given to treating coronary artery disease. For patients whose hearts have been seriously damaged by ischemic cardiomyopathy, doctors may recommend that a heart transplant be considered.

Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia 

Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD) is a rare form of cardiomyopathy. It occurs when the heart muscle tissue in the right ventricle dies and is replaced by scar tissue.

See also on this site: Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia

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Can cardiomyopathy be prevented?

Although cardiomyopathy is one of the less frequent forms of heart disease, it's still important to be aware of the role heredity plays in the disease and to be familiar with its symptoms.

Check your family's medical history to learn if you are at risk. Even if nobody in your family has cardiomyopathy, you need to know the warning signs:

  • unexplained shortness of breath
  • bloating
  • fainting
  • chest pains

If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor. Also, because drinking too much alcohol, eating foods without the proper vitamins, and exposure to toxins can all cause cardiomyopathy, you can lower your risk by living a heart-healthy lifestyle.

See also on this site: Congestive Heart Failure

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Updated October 2013
Texas Heart Institute Heart Information Center
Through this community outreach program, staff members of the Texas Heart Institute (THI) provide educational information related to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cardiovascular disease. It is not the intention of THI to provide specific medical advice, but rather to provide users with information to better understand their health and their diagnosed disorders. Specific medical advice will not be provided and THI urges you to visit a qualified physician for diagnosis and for answers to your questions.
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