Dilated cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle, usually starting in your heart's main pumping chamber (left ventricle). The ventricle stretches and thins (dilates) and can't pump blood as well as a healthy heart can. The term "cardiomyopathy" is a general term that refers to the abnormality of the heart muscle itself.

Dilated cardiomyopathy might not cause symptoms, but for some people it can be life-threatening. A common cause of heart failure — the heart's inability to supply the body with enough blood — dilated cardiomyopathy can also contribute to irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias), blood clots or sudden death.

The condition affects people of all ages, including infants and children, but is most common in men ages 20 to 60.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

If you have dilated cardiomyopathy, you're likely to have signs and symptoms of heart failure or arrhythmias caused by your condition. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea) when you're active or lying down
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Swelling (edema) in your legs, ankles and feet
  • Swelling of your abdomen (ascites)

When to see a doctor

If you're short of breath or have other symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy, see your doctor. Call 911 or your local emergency number if you feel chest pain that lasts more than a few minutes or have severe difficulty breathing.

If a family member has dilated cardiomyopathy, talk to your doctor about being screened or having family members screened for the condition. Early detection may benefit people with inherited forms of dilated cardiomyopathy who have no apparent signs or symptoms.

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