What is cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle. It makes it harder for the heart to fill with blood and to pump blood. Cardiomyopathy is a major cause of heart failure and one of the most common conditions leading to heart transplantation. The condition can also cause abnormal heart rhythms. Cardiomyopathy can affect people of all ages and races. One of the major advances in our understanding of cardiomyopathies is the use of genetic testing. This allows us to identify the specific genetic mutations that lead to the disease and detect mutation carriers even before the disease begins. Advanced imaging techniques also allow to identify problems with the heart muscle and plan the best treatment possible. In addition, new drugs are being developed to treat patients with some forms of cardiomyopathy.

There are two main types of cardiomyopathy:

  • Primary cardiomyopathy – The patient does not have other cardiac conditions that lead to weakened heart muscle. In some cases, cardiomyopathies are inherited and may be passed down to other family members.
  • Secondary cardiomyopathy – Caused by a medical condition (such as hypertension, valve disease, congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease, or toxins/medications). Some of these conditions can be treated, which can prevent the muscle affected. The goal of therapy for patients with secondary cardiomyopathy is to identify and correct the medical condition(s) that are responsible for the condition.

Coronary artery disease is a common and potentially reversible cause of cardiomyopathy. Ischemia means that an area of the body isn’t getting enough blood, often because there is a problem with the blood vessels. So, cardiomyopathy is often broken down into two categories, ischemic and non-ischemic, depending on whether coronary artery disease is causing the condition.

There are other types of cardiomyopathy that do not fit well into the general classifications. These include:

Reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional.

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