What Is Cardiomyopathy?

portrait of young woman with grandmother

Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle that makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. The various types of the disease have many causes, signs and symptoms as well as treatments. In most cases, cardiomyopathy causes the heart muscle to become enlarged, thick or rigid. In rare instances, diseased heart muscle tissue is replaced with scar tissue.

As cardiomyopathy worsens, the heart becomes weaker. The heart becomes less able to pump blood throughout the body and incapable of maintaining a normal electrical rhythm. The result can be heart failure or irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias. A weakened heart also can cause other complications, such as heart valve problems.


The main types of cardiomyopathy are:

Some other types of cardiomyopathy are called “unclassified cardiomyopathy.” Another type, which usually follows acute emotional stress, is “stress-induced cardiomyopathy,” also known as broken heart syndrome.

Cardiomyopathy can be “acquired” when it develops due to another disease, condition or factor. Or cardiomyopathy can be “inherited” when the gene for the disease is passed on from a parent.

In many cases, the cause of cardiomyopathy isn’t known. This is often the case when it occurs in children.

Cardiomyopathy affects all ages, although certain age groups are more likely to have certain types of cardiomyopathies.

Approaches to treatment

Some cases of cardiomyopathy have no signs or symptoms and need no treatment. In other cases, cardiomyopathy develops quickly with severe symptoms, and serious complications occur. Treatment is required in these instances.

Treatments include lifestyle changes, medications, surgery, implanted devices to correct arrhythmias and other nonsurgical procedures. These treatments can control symptoms, reduce complications and prevent the disease from worsening.