What is restrictive cardiomyopathy?

Restrictive cardiomyopathy, the rarest form of cardiomyopathy, is a condition in which the walls of the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles) are abnormally rigid and lack the flexibility to expand as the ventricles fill with blood.

The pumping or systolic function of the ventricle may be normal but the diastolic function (the ability of the heart to fill with blood) is abnormal. Therefore, it is harder for the ventricles to fill with blood, and with time, the heart loses the ability to pump blood properly leading to heart failure.

What are the symptoms of restrictive cardiomyopathy?

Many people with restrictive cardiomyopathy have no symptoms or only minor symptoms, and live a normal life. Other people develop symptoms, which progress as heart function worsens.

Symptoms occur at any age and may include:

  • Shortness of breath (at first with exercise; but over time it occurs at rest)
  • Fatigue (feeling overly tired)
  • Inability to exercise
  • Swelling of the legs and feet
  • Weight gain
  • Nausea, bloating, and poor appetite (related to fluid retention)
  • Palpitations (fluttering in the chest due to abnormal heart rhythms)

Less common symptoms:

  • Fainting (caused by irregular heart rhythms, abnormal responses of the blood vessels during exercise, or no cause may be found)
  • Chest pain or pressure (occurs usually with exercise or physical activity, but can also occur with rest or after meals)
  • Learn more about heart failure symptoms

What causes restrictive cardiomyopathy?

Restrictive cardiomyopathy is not usually inherited and its cause is often unknown. Known causes include:

  • Build-up of scar tissue (idiopathic is the most common cause)
  • Build-up of abnormal proteins (amyloidosis) in the heart muscle
  • Chemotherapy or chest exposure to radiation
  • Excess iron (hemochromatosis) in the heart
  • Other systemic diseases (sarcoidosis)

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