Cardiomyopathy: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Medically Reviewed on 3/1/2019

Cardiomyopathy is a term that refers to any disease of the heart muscle and damage to the heart, resulting in its inability to pump adequate blood to the body. There are different types of cardiomyopathy depending on the cause of the damage to the heart. Some examples of causes of cardiomyopathy include coronary artery disease, alcohol abuse, and genetic conditions. Cardiomyopathy can ultimately cause heart failure.

With cardiomyopathy, the heart is usually enlarged, thickened, or stiffened. In some cases, the pumping chambers of the heart are abnormally dilated. Signs and symptoms result from decreased heart function and can include palpitations or a fast heart rate, chest pain, shortness of breath including coughing, fainting or dizziness, fatigue, and swollen extremities.

Causes of cardiomyopathy

Alcoholism, diabetes, coronary artery disease, thyroid disease, heart valve abnormalities, viral infections of the heart, drugs that cause damage to the heart, genetic conditions, high blood pressure, aging, buildup of scar tissue, amyloidosis, chemotherapy, chest exposure to radiation, hemochromatosis, and sarcoidosis can cause cardiomyopathy.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/1/2019

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Heart Health Newsletter

By clicking "Submit," I agree to the MedicineNet Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy. I also agree to receive emails from MedicineNet and I understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet subscriptions at any time.