Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is the most common type, occurring mostly in adults 20 to 60. It affects the heart's ventricles and atria, the lower and upper chambers of the heart, respectively.

Frequently the disease starts in the left ventricle, the heart's main pumping chamber. The heart muscle begins to dilate, meaning it stretches and becomes thinner. Consequently, the inside of the chamber enlarges. The problem often spreads to the right ventricle and then to the atria.

As the heart chambers dilate, the heart muscle doesn't contract normally and cannot pump blood very well. As the heart becomes weaker heart failure can occur. Common symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath, fatigue and swelling of the ankles, feet, legs, abdomen and veins in the neck.

Dilated cardiomyopathy also can lead to heart valve problems, arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) and blood clots in the heart.

Other Names for Dilated Cardiomyopathy

  • Alcoholic cardiomyopathy. (A term used when overuse of alcohol causes the disease)
  • Congestive cardiomyopathy
  • Diabetic cardiomyopathy
  • Familial dilated cardiomyopathy
  • Idiopathic cardiomyopathy
  • Ischemic cardiomyopathy (A term used when coronary heart disease, also called coronary artery disease or heart attack cause the disease. Not all forms of DCM are ischemic in origin.)
  • Peripartum cardiomyopathy (A term used when the disease develops in a woman shortly before or after she gives birth.)
  • Primary cardiomyopathy

What Causes Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Often, cause of dilated cardiomyopathy isn't known. Up to one-third of the people of those who have it inherit it from their parents.

Some diseases, conditions and substances also can cause the disease, such as:

  • Coronary heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease, viral hepatitis and HIV
  • Infections, especially viral infections that inflame the heart muscle
  • Alcohol, especially if you also have a poor diet
  • Complications during the last month of pregnancy or within 5 months of birth
  • Certain toxins such as cobalt
  • Certain drugs (such as cocaine and amphetamines) and two medicines used to treat cancer (doxorubicin and daunorubicin)

Other Types of Cardiomyopathy:

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Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services(link opens in new window)