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Cardiomyopathy is any disease of the heart muscle in which the heart loses its ability to pump blood effectively. In some instances, heart rhythm is disturbed and leads to arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats). There may be multiple causes of cardiomyopathy, including viral infections. Often, the exact cause of the muscle disease is never found.
Cardiomyopathy differs from many of the other disorders of the heart in several ways, including the following:
Viral infections that infect the heart are a major cause of cardiomyopathy. In some instances, cardiomyopathy is a result of another disease or its treatment, such as complex congenital (present at birth) heart disease, nutritional deficiencies, uncontrollable, fast heart rhythms, or certain types of chemotherapy for cancer. Sometimes, cardiomyopathy can be linked to a genetic abnormality. Other times, the cause is unknown. Three types of cardiomyopathy affect adults.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy occurs when the muscle mass of the left ventricle of the heart is thicker than normal, or the wall between the two ventricles (septum) becomes enlarged and obstructs the blood flow from the left ventricle. Because it prevents the heart from properly relaxing between beats, it fills with less blood, which limits the amount of blood pumped by the heart with each beat. A heart murmur may be heard, which is related to the obstruction below the aortic valve (valve between the left ventricle and the aorta).
Dilated cardiomyopathy is the most frequent form of non-ischemic cardiomyopathy. The cavity of the heart is enlarged and stretched (cardiac dilation) causing the heart to become weak and not pump normally.
Restrictive cardiomyopathy, the least common type of cardiomyopathy in the US, occurs when the myocardium of the ventricles becomes excessively rigid, and the filling of the ventricles with blood between heart beats is impaired.