Cardiomyopathy (Heart Muscle Disease)

What is it?

Cardiomyopathy is any abnormality in the structure or workings of the middle muscular layer of the heart wall in the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart. Cardiomyopathy damages the muscle tone of the heart and reduces its ability to pump blood to the rest of the body. It is the leading cause of heart failure and often goes unrecognized and untreated. It typically affects younger people.

Causes, Symptoms and Risk Factors

Cardiomyopathy can be caused by several factors:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Virus infections
  • Alcohol abuse combined with poor nutrition
  • Beriberi, a condition in which the body doesn’t receive or can’t process thiamine
  • Hereditary


Signs that cardiomyopathy may be present include:

  • Rattling sounds in lower part of the chest during breathing
  • Difficulty breathing or unexplained shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Fainting
  • Chest pains
  • Fever, if the cardiomyopathy is caused by a virus or bacteria
  • Swollen neck veins
  • Bloating
  • Normal or low blood pressure
  • Swelling of the hands and feet that has a pitted surface to the skin
  • Abnormally rapid heart rate

You are also at risk if you drink too much alcohol, eat foods without the proper vitamins, and are exposed to toxins. 

Our Services (Tests, Procedures and Treatments)

Diagnostic testing and procedures are the first step in establishing a treatment strategy. Once a doctor has ruled out other causes that have similar symptoms such as high blood pressure, diseases of the heart valves or a heart attack  doctor may order tests or perform the following procedures:


You can lower your risk by living a heart-healthy lifestyle. If an underlying cause can be found - such as alcoholism or a niacin deficiency that can simply be treated by living a heart-healthy life-style. Usually, however, treatment is limited to addressing symptoms such as heart failure and improving the effectiveness of the heart's ability to pump. Therefore medicine may be prescribed, rest, stress reduction and physical exercise can be helpful to treatment.

St. Luke's Heart & Vascular