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Dilated cardiomyopathy is a serious condition that weakens your heart muscle and
causes it to stretch, or dilate. When your heart muscle is weak, it can't pump
out blood as well as it should, so more blood stays in your heart after each
heartbeat. As more blood fills and stays in the heart, the heart muscle
stretches even more and gets even weaker.
Most of the time, this
heart failure. Heart failure does not mean that your
heart stops pumping. It means that your heart can't pump enough blood to meet
your body's needs.
common type of dilated cardiomyopathy develops after a heart attack has damaged
the heart muscle. But it can also be caused by many diseases or problems that
may or may not be related to your heart. Sometimes the cause is not known.
Some of the things that can lead to dilated cardiomyopathy
You may not have any
symptoms at first. Or you may have mild symptoms, such as feeling very tired or
If your heart gets weaker, you will develop heart failure.
When this happens, you will feel other symptoms, including:
You may get these symptoms slowly, over months or years.
Or you may get them suddenly, such as after pregnancy or an illness caused by a
Heart failure that suddenly gets worse is an emergency. Get
medical help right away if:
When you have heart failure, keeping track of your symptoms every
day is important. Call your doctor if:
doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and past health. He or she will
want to know about recent illnesses and about heart disease in your family.
Your doctor will listen to your heart and lungs and check your legs for fluid
You may also have other tests, including:
In some cases, a doctor may want to look at a small
sample of heart tissue, called a biopsy, to make a definite diagnosis.
Treatment for dilated cardiomyopathy focuses on relieving your symptoms, improving heart function, and helping you live longer.
You will probably need to take several medicines to treat heart failure caused by dilated cardiomyopathy. It is very important to take your medicines exactly as your doctor tells you to and to keep taking them. If you don't, your heart failure could get worse.
Your doctor may suggest a mechanical device to help your
heart pump blood or to prevent life-threatening irregular heart rhythms. Such
devices include a
pacemaker for heart failure (also called cardiac resynchronization therapy or CRT), an
implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), or a
combination pacemaker and ICD. If your condition is very bad, a heart
transplant may be an option.
Self-care is an important part of your treatment. Self-care includes the things you can do every day to feel better, stay healthy, and avoid the hospital.
Most of the time, dilated cardiomyopathy leads to heart failure. Heart
failure usually gets worse over time, but treatment can slow the disease and
help you feel better and live longer. In more and more cases, the problem is
being found earlier, when it can be better managed.
develop other problems, including:
If a woman gets dilated cardiomyopathy from pregnancy,
she should not get pregnant again. This is true even if her heart problem gets better.
If your disease is getting worse, you may
want to think about making end-of-life decisions. It can be comforting to know
that you will get the type of care you want.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Learning about dilated cardiomyopathy:
Living with dilated cardiomyopathy:
Other Works Consulted
Hare JM (2012). The dilated, restrictive, and infiltrative cardiomyopathies. In RO Bonow et al., eds., Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 9th ed., vol. 2, pp.1561–1581. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Mestroni L, et al. (2011). Dilated cardiomyopathies. In V Fuster et al., eds., Hurst's the Heart, 13th ed., vol. 1, pp. 821–836. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Yancy CW, et al. (2013). 2013 ACCF/AHA Guideline for the management of heart failure: A report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 62(16): e147–e239.
Current as of:
March 12, 2014
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & George Philippides, MD - Cardiology
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