Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size


Initially you may not feel any symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy, or symptoms such as fatigue or weakness may be mild.

Eventually, you will develop heart failure. Symptoms of heart failure can develop gradually, over months or years. In other instances, heart failure may develop suddenly, such as after a viral infection or pregnancy.

Recommended Related to Heart Disease

The Dangers of High Cholesterol

When Ramona Richman's older sister was diagnosed with high cholesterol, Richman wasn't worried about her own risk. The San Francisco Bay Area stay-at-home mom had her weight under control and assumed that her diet was healthy. So when her doctor broke the news that she, too, had high cholesterol, she was shocked. Her reading of 269 mg/dL was well over the desirable level of less than 200 mg/dL. "My sister had high cholesterol and went on medication, so I imagine that it's a genetic thing," Richman,...

Read the The Dangers of High Cholesterol article > >

Symptoms of gradual heart failure

Typically, symptoms of heart failure develop gradually and may include:

  • Weakness and fatigue.
  • Difficulty breathing and/or wheezing during normal activities or exercise that did not cause breathing problems in the past.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • A dry, hacking cough, especially when lying down.
  • Fluid buildup (edema), especially in the legs, ankles, and feet.
  • Dizziness, fainting, or feeling tired or weak.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Rapid weight gain caused by water retention.
  • Increased urination at night.
  • Abdominal swelling, tenderness, or pain, which may result from a buildup of fluid in the body (ascites) and blood that backs up in the liver.

Symptoms of sudden heart failure

In sudden heart failure, rapid fluid buildup in the lungs may cause symptoms of pulmonary edema, such as:

  • Severe shortness of breath.
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat.
  • Coughing up foamy, pink mucus.

Sudden heart failure is an emergency medical situation and requires immediate care.

Complications of dilated cardiomyopathy

Complications of dilated cardiomyopathy may include:

  • Pulmonary edema, which is rapid fluid buildup in the lungs.
  • Arrhythmias, which are abnormal heart rhythms that can cause loss of consciousness or sudden death.
  • Blood clots inside the heart, which can lead to a strokeor heart attack.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is the most common type of cardiomyopathy. Other forms of cardiomyopathy include restrictive cardiomyopathy, in which the heart muscle gets stiff, and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, in which the heart muscle is thickened and can't relax. For more information, see the topics Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and Restrictive Cardiomyopathy.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 20, 2008
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Today on WebMD

cholesterol lab test report
Compressed heart
Heart Foods Slideshow
Compressed heart
empty football helmet
doctor looking at xrays
eating blueberries
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Inside A Heart Attack
Omega 3 Sources
Salt Shockers
lowering blood pressure