What is Dilated Cardiomyopathy?

Jacob Queen
Jacob Queen
Doctors may prescribe medication to treat dilated cardiomyopathy.
Doctors may prescribe medication to treat dilated cardiomyopathy.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is the most common variety of cardiomyopathy. The cause of the condition is an over-sized left ventricle, which becomes much less efficient at pumping blood through the body. This can eventually lead to a condition called congestive heart failure, where several organs in the body, including the lungs, begin to retain fluid. Dilated cardiomyopathy is generally more common in men than in women, and the final outcome can be very different depending on the ultimate cause of the disorder and the age of the person diagnosed.

Often, people suffering with dilated cardiomyopathy won’t have any symptoms until congestive heart failure develops, so symptoms related to that disorder are the most common things that lead to eventual diagnosis. Some of the more common symptoms are swollen legs and feet, coughing, shortness of breath and low urine production. Other symptoms include dizziness, fainting, heart palpitations and weight gain. The symptoms of congestive heart failure can be immediately deadly if left untreated, so it is generally important for patients to seek medical advice quickly.

In most cases, doctors are unable to determine the actual cause of dilated cardiomyopathy. There are many different things that increase a person’s risk, including high blood pressure, certain viruses that affect the heart, a family history of cardiomyopathy and substance abuse. Thyroid disease has also been associated with the disorder, and some women can suddenly develop issues after childbirth. Dilated cardiomyopathy can sometimes be diagnosed with a blood test, and in order to confirm the diagnosis, doctors may try other tests like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), electrocardiograms, computed tomography (CT) scans and X-rays. Patients may be asked to perform aerobic exercises while the physician monitors their vital signs to see how well their heart functions under stress.

In the cases where doctors are able to determine a cause for dilated cardiomyopathy, they usually use medication to treat that specific cause— often times, however, that is not possible, and they are forced to focus on symptom control. Beta blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are very common medications, and certain other medicines may be given to control specific symptoms like irregular heartbeat. As problems worsen, patients are sometimes moved to other medications like diuretics and aldosterone inhibitors. Doctors will often recommend certain lifestyle changes, including a diet with reduced sodium and aerobic exercises. In some cases, pacemakers may be installed, and certain patients may eventually become candidates for heart transplants.

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Discussion Comments

anon351196

I was diagnosed with heart failure /unexplained cardiomyopothy with severe left ventrical dysfunction EF of 22 percent in 2006. I had an echo done in 2008 and there was no change. I was told I would not be cured.

I just had another echo and it showed an EF of 42 percent. How could this be? I've been on disability since January 2007. Now what? I'm still tired all the time and get fatigued easily.

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    • Doctors may prescribe medication to treat dilated cardiomyopathy.
      By: Shakzu
      Doctors may prescribe medication to treat dilated cardiomyopathy.