Cardiomyopathy: Causes, Types, Symptoms & Treatment Options

Cardiomyopathy, or heart muscle disease, is a progressive condition that affects the heart’s ability to function properly. The heart becomes enlarged, thickened, and/or stiffened, reducing its efficiency in pumping blood and leading to heart failure and the accumulation of blood in the lungs or other parts of the body. Cardiomyopathy may also cause abnormal heart rhythms. It can occur in people of all ages and races, with approximately 1 in 500 adults affected by the disease. Some types of cardiomyopathy are more common in certain groups, such as dilated cardiomyopathy which is more common in black people, and dilated and arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy which is more likely to occur in males.

Types of Cardiomyopathy
There are four main types of cardiomyopathy: dilated, hypertrophic, arrhythmogenic, and restrictive. Dilated cardiomyopathy is characterized by an enlarged heart chamber and is the most common form of cardiomyopathy in children. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is marked by thickened heart muscle and often presents in childhood or early adulthood. Arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy is marked by irregular heart rhythms. Restrictive cardiomyopathy is characterized by stiff or scarred heart muscle and is the least common type.

Some cardiomyopathies do not fit into the main categories of the condition. These include broken heart syndrome, also known as stress-induced or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, which is characterized by temporary heart enlargement; chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy, which is heart damage resulting from cancer treatment; and peripartum cardiomyopathy, a type of congestive heart failure that occurs during or after pregnancy.

Causes of Cardiomyopathy
The cause of cardiomyopathy is often unknown, but in some cases, it can be acquired as a result of another condition or inherited from a parent. There are several health conditions and behaviors that can contribute to the development of acquired cardiomyopathy, including:

  • Long-term high blood pressure
  • Heart damage from a heart attack
  • Long-term rapid heart rate
  • Heart valve problems
  • COVID-19 infection
  • Heart inflammation
  • Metabolic disorders such as thyroid disease, or diabetes
  • Vitamin and/or mineral deficiency
  • Pregnancy
  • Iron buildup in the heart muscle
  • Granulomas growths
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy

Continue reading on the next page, and find out, how you can recognize cardiomyopathy and what you should do in case you suspect you – or a loved one – are suffering from (undiagnosed) cardiomyopathy.