Dilated Cardiomyopathy: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

What is Dilated Cardiomyopathy?

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a heart disorder that affects the ability of your heart muscle to pump blood. The heart’s walls stretch, becoming thin, and the chambers become enlarged. This makes it hard to circulate enough blood to the rest of your body. Dilated cardiomyopathy symptoms can range from shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pains, coughs with pink frothy sputum, and swelling in your feet and ankles. Dilated cardiomyopathy causes vary, and it can be caused by genetics, infections, toxins, alcohol and drug abuse, diseases, and other conditions.

What are the Symptoms of Dilated Cardiomyopathy?

The signs and symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy can range from mild to severe and may differ from person to person. Common dilated cardiomyopathy symptoms include:

  • Fatigue: People with dilated cardiomyopathy can become easily fatigued.
  • Shortness of Breath: This is often the first symptom, especially when lying down.
  • Chest Pain: Chest pain strong enough to be felt can occur during physical exertion or a severe episode of arrhythmia.
  • Cough: A dry or productive hacking cough can occur due to the build-up of fluid on the lungs.
  • Swelling: People with heart failure can experience edema (swelling) in the feet, ankles, and legs.

What Causes Dilated Cardiomyopathy?

The exact dilated cardiomyopathy cause can often be difficult to pinpoint, although it is often associated with genetic and environmental factors. Common dilated cardiomyopathy causes include:

  • Genetic Causes: If a family member has Dilated Cardiomyopathy, it’s likely you can have it too.
  • Infections: Some viruses and bacteria can damage the heart and increase your risk of developing Dilated Cardiomyopathy.
  • Toxins: Certain chemicals and toxins have been linked to Dilated Cardiomyopathy.
  • Alcohol and Drug Abuse: Excessive alcohol consumption or recreational drug use can increase the risk for Dilated Cardiomyopathy.
  • Diseases: Certain diseases such as AIDS, thyroid disease, and malnutrition can increase the risk of developing Dilated Cardiomyopathy.
  • Other Causes: Certain medications and pregnancy can also increase the risk of Dilated Cardiomyopathy.

Treatment for Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy treatment typically depends on a person’s symptoms, underlying health conditions, and lifestyle. Treatment typically involves medications, lifestyle changes, and sometimes surgery or a pacemaker.


Medications used to treat dilated cardiomyopathy include diuretics to reduce fluid overload, ACE inhibitors to reduce blood pressure and improve kidney function, beta blockers to reduce heart rate and load on the heart, and anticoagulants to prevent blood clots.

Lifestyle Changes

It’s important to make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of complications from dilated cardiomyopathy. This can include quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, reducing stress, and eating a healthy diet. Regular exercise can also help strengthen your heart muscle, boost your energy, and improve your overall health.

Surgery or a Pacemaker

In some cases, surgery may be necessary. This may include a coronary artery bypass graft to bypass blocked arteries, an angioplasty to open clogged arteries, or an implantable device such as a pacemaker or defibrillator to regulate your heart rhythm.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy and Your Health

Dilated cardiomyopathy can have serious consequences if it is left untreated. It can lead to heart failure, the abnormal accumulation of fluid in the lungs, and other serious heart problems such as ventricular fibrillation, stroke, and arrhythmias. Taking steps to manage your condition and following your doctor’s treatment plan are important to reducing your risk of developing more serious complications from dilated cardiomyopathy.

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