What Is Cardiomyopathy?

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Cardiomyopathy affects your heart in scary ways. Chest pain, feeling like you're going to faint, and not breathing well can have you concerned about the future. What is cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is a condition that affects your heart muscle. If you have it, your heart has trouble pumping blood. That’s because the heart muscle changes. Your heart muscle might become thicker, thinner, stiff, or scarred. This can lead to heart failure, irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias), or sudden cardiac death.

How your heart muscle changes depends on the type of cardiomyopathy you have.

What Is Cardiomyopathy?: How Your Heart Is Affected

The types of cardiomyopathy include:

  • Dilated
  • Hypertrophic
  • Restrictive 
  • Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (rare)

Dilated cardiomyopathy means your heart muscle is thinner and the main pumping chamber is enlarged.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy means the muscle is thicker, making the heart chambers smaller and stiffer.

Restrictive cardiomyopathy means the lower chambers are stiff and have trouble filling with blood.

Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia is rare. It happens when the muscle on the right side gets replaced by fat and fibrous tissue.

Cardiomyopathy can also be grouped by how your heart was damaged. Ischemic cardiomyopathy means it's caused by another heart condition, like a heart attack or coronary artery disease. Non-ischemic cardiomyopathy means that it doesn't come from another heart condition.

There are also other rare types that don’t fit into these categories.

You might have it because it runs in your family. A genetic test can tell you if it's passed down from your family members.

Cardiomyopathy Symptoms

Symptoms of cardiomyopathy depend on the type you have and how bad it is. Common symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats (palpitations)
  • Dizziness or fainting