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Overview of Cardiomyopathy

By Thomas D. Stamos, MD, Chief, Clinical Cardiology and Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago

Cardiomyopathy refers to progressive impairment of the structure and function of the muscular walls of the heart chambers.

There are three main types of cardiomyopathy:

The main types of cardiomyopathy may overlap, that is, people may have features of more than one type.

The term cardiomyopathy is used only when a disorder directly affects the heart muscle. Other heart disorders such as coronary artery disease and heart valve disorders, as well as high blood pressure, also can eventually cause the ventricles to enlarge or thicken. However, doctors do not classify the heart muscle problems caused by those disorders as cardiomyopathies.

Types of Cardiomyopathy

There are three main types of cardiomyopathy—dilated, hypertrophic, and restrictive.

Cardiomyopathy can be caused by many disorders, or it may have no identifiable cause.

Cardiomyopathies often result in the heart not pumping blood adequately. This can cause symptoms of heart failure, including shortness of breath and fatigue. Some cardiomyopathies may also cause chest pain, fainting, abnormal heart rhythms, or sudden death.

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