What is Cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is a serious disease in which the heart muscle becomes inflamed and doesn't work as well as it should. There may be multiple causes including viral infections.

People used to assume that only the elderly had heart disease or heart attacks. That is not the case as heart disease can strike before birth and any age in life. Heart disease covers a wide range of health conditions relating to the heart and all its systems.

Cardiomyopathy is classified as primary or secondary. Primary cardiomyopathy is not given specific causes, such as high blood pressure, heart valve disease or congenital heart defects. Secondary cardiomyopathy is due to specific causes. It is often associated with diseases involving other organs plus the heart.

Dilated (congestive) Cardiomyopathy is the most common form. The heart cavity is enlarged and stretched (cardiac dilation). The heart is weak and doesn't pump normally, with many patients developing congestive heart failure.

Abnormal heart rhythms and disturbances in the heart's electrical conduction also may occur. Blood flows more slowly through an enlarged heart, so blood clots easily form. A blood clot that forms in an artery or the heart is called a thrombus. A clot that breaks free circulates in the bloodstream and blocks a small blood vessel is called an embolus.

These clots are dangerous and can cause other systems plus their organs to become sick. For example, blood clots that form in the heart's left side may become dislodged and carried into the body's circulation to form cerebral emboli in the brain, renal emboli in the kidney, peripheral emboli or even coronary artery emboli.

Cardiomyopathy literally means "heart muscle disease" (The deterioration of the function of the myocardium (i.e., the actual heart muscle) for any reason). People with Cardiomyopathy are often at risk of arrhythmia and possibly sudden cardiac death (heart attack).