What is it?
A Cardiomyopathy means that the heart muscle is weak. It occurs when
the problem is primarily with the heart muscle rather than with blocked arteries
as occurs with heart attacks. Cardiomyopathies can be classified in
many forms but simply can be Dilated or Hypertrophic. In a Dilated Cardiomyopathy
the heart is enlarged and weakened. Untreated, the weakening
results in heart failure which produces shortness of breath, ankle swelling
What causes it?
Generally the cause of dilated Cardiomyopathies remains unknown. It is
thought that viral infections play a role in triggering this condition. It can occur
after viral colds, genetic causes, drugs, systemic diseases such as amyloidosis, haemochromatosis or even in relation to pregnancy. Often no precipitating
event can be identified. Sometimes the heart can recover in function and
this will be regularly assessed by echocardiographic tests.
What are the risks?
The main risks are symptoms of shortness of breath and reduced energy
or lethargy. Rarely the heart rhythm can become disturbed leading to dizziness
or collapse. You should contact your Doctor if you have any of these
symptoms. A potential reduction in life span can be improved by regular
How do you treat it?
Heart failure can now be well treated by tablets. Diuretics are fluid tablets
which reduce the volume that the heart has to pump around. ACE inhibitors or ARB's
reduce the blood pressure and load on the heart; additionally they
have been shown to improve survival in patient with Cardiomyopathy. Digoxin
helps the heart to beat stronger. Beta blockers such as Carvedilol ,
Bisoprolol and Metoprolol XL can improves symptoms and survival in
patients with more severe heart dysfunction. Warfarin is sometimes used
to thin the blood and reduce the chance of blood congealing in the weakened
heart, which can lead to strokes when the clot dislodges. Rarely patients
who fail to respond to conventional medical treatment can
become candidates for heart transplants. It is important that control of fluid
intake is curtailed.
Heart failure normally responds well to medication