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Dilated Cardiomyopathy - Topic Overview

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What is dilated cardiomyopathy?

Dilated cardiomyopathy camera.gif is a serious condition that weakens your heart muscle and causes it to stretch, or dilate. When your heart muscle is weak, it can't pump out blood as well as it should, so more blood stays in your heart after each heartbeat. As more blood fills and stays in the heart, the heart muscle stretches even more and gets even weaker.

Most of the time, this leads to heart failure. Heart failure does not mean that your heart stops pumping. It means that your heart can't pump enough blood to meet your body's needs.

What causes dilated cardiomyopathy?

The most common type of dilated cardiomyopathy develops after a heart attack has damaged the heart muscle. But it can also be caused by many diseases or problems that may or may not be related to your heart. Sometimes the cause is not known.

Some of the things that can lead to dilated cardiomyopathy include:

What are the symptoms?

You may not have any symptoms at first. Or you may have mild symptoms, such as feeling very tired or weak.

If your heart gets weaker, you will develop heart failure. When this happens, you will feel other symptoms, including:

  • Shortness of breath, especially with activity.
  • Tiredness.
  • Trouble breathing when you lie down.
  • Swelling in your legs.

You may get these symptoms slowly, over months or years. Or you may get them suddenly, such as after pregnancy or an illness caused by a virus.

Heart failure that suddenly gets worse is an emergency. Get medical help right away if:

  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You cough up pink, foamy mucus.
  • You have a new irregular or rapid heartbeat.

When you have heart failure, keeping track of your symptoms every day is important. Call your doctor if:

  • You have a sudden weight gain such as 3 lb (1.4 kg) or more in 2 to 3 days.
  • Your ability to exercise changes.
  • You have any change in your symptoms.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 24, 2012
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.
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