Symptoms and Signs of Cardiomyopathy

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/6/2021

Doctor's Notes on Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is when the heart muscle cannot contract or function normally that causes the heart to be weak and not able to pump blood adequately to the body. Signs and symptoms of cardiomyopathy may start with

  • weakness and fatigue and exercise intolerance;
  • shortness of breath and/or chest pain usually occurs as the heart muscle function decreases.
  • Swelling of the feet, ankles, and legs frequently occurs.
  • Some individuals may have electrical disturbances with cardiomyopathy; symptoms can be the same as above but can include palpitations, feelings of the heart skipping a beat or potentially fatal heart rhythms like ventricular fibrillation may happen.

Unfortunately, there are many causes of cardiomyopathy (at least 30, and many are due to other medical problems). However, any condition or disease that affects heart muscle so that it cannot supply the needed blood for the body’s demand can cause cardiomyopathy. A few examples that are common causes include

  • genetic diseases,
  • infections,
  • toxins like alcohol abuse or lead, 
  • diabetes
  • hypertension,
  • hypertrophy (thickened ventricle),
  • neuromuscular disorders, and
  • many others.

What are the treatments for cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is a general term that encompasses many types of problems. As stated above, there are 30 or more causes (types) of cardiomyopathy, too many to present in this summary. Consequently, this summary will present the general treatments used for this heart problem as treatments depend on the type of cardiomyopathy. They include:

  • Medications to accomplish the following:
  • Ablation therapy
    • Septal ablation – the destruction of the thick obstructing heart muscle
    • Radiofrequency ablation – radio waves that damage or kill abnormal heart cells that cause abnormal heart rhythms
  • Surgery – procedures/devices
    • Pacemaker – control arrhythmias
    • Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator – control abnormal heart rhythms
    • Ventricular assist device – assists heart pumping
    • Septal myectomy – removal of thickened heart septal wall to increase blood flow
    • Heart transplant – treats severe or end-stage cardiomyopathy

Your doctors and you can discuss what treatment protocols may be best for your cardiomyopathy type.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.