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What Causes Cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy can be acquired or inherited. "Acquired" means you aren't born with the disease, but you develop it due to another disease, condition, or factor. "Inherited" means your parents passed the gene for the disease on to you. Researchers continue to look for the genetic links to cardiomyopathy and to explore how these links cause or contribute to the various types of the disease.

"Inherited" means your parents passed the gene for the disease on to you. Researchers continue to look for the genetic links to cardiomyopathy and to explore how these links cause or contribute to the various types of the disease.

Many times, the cause of cardiomyopathy isn't known. This often is the case when the disease occurs in children.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy usually is inherited. It's caused by a mutation of change in some of the genes in heart muscle proteins. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy also can develop over time because of high blood pressure, aging, or other diseases, such as diabetes or thyroid disease. Sometimes the cause of the disease isn't known.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

The cause of dilated cardiomyopathy often isn't known. About one-third of the people who have dilated cardiomyopathy inherit it from their parents.

Certain diseases, conditions, and substances also can cause the disease, such as:

  • Alcohol, especially if you also have a poor diet
  • Certain toxins, such as poisons and heavy metals
  • Complications during the last months of pregnancy
  • Coronary heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease, viral hepatitis, and HIV
  • Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines, and some medicines used to treat cancer
  • Infections, especially viral infections that inflame the heart muscle

Restrictive Cardiomyopathy

Certain diseases, conditions, and factors can cause restrictive cardiomyopathy, including:

  • Amyloidosis: A disease in which abnormal proteins build up in the body's organs, including the heart
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Hemochromatosis: A disease in which too much iron builds up in the body. The extra iron is toxic to the body and can damage the organs, including the heart.
  • Sarcoidosis: A disease that causes inflammation and can affect various organs in the body. Researchers believe that an abnormal immune response may cause sarcoidosis. This abnormal response causes tiny lumps of cells to form in the body's organs, including the heart.
  • Some cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy

Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia

Researchers think that arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia is an inherited disease.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Cardiomyopathy?

Some people who have cardiomyopathy never have signs or symptoms. Others don't have signs or symptoms in the early stages of the disease.

As cardiomyopathy worsens and the heart weakens, signs and symptoms of heart failure usually occur. These signs and symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing, especially with physical exertion
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, abdomen, and veins in the neck

Other signs and symptoms may include dizziness; light-headedness; fainting during physical activity; arrhythmias; chest pain, especially after physical exertion or heavy meals; and heart murmurs.

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Inherited Cardiovascular Disease Center

The Inherited Cardiovascular Disease Center is the only dedicated inherited cardiovascular disease center in North Texas staffed with a cardiovascular genetics counselor that offers a full range of services for rare genetic heart diseases. This feature is a critical component that differentiates academic cardiovascular genetics programs from general medical genetic centers. The genetic counselor spends one-on-one time with patients to understand a multigenerational family history. The counselor provides patients with a full explanation of the risks, benefits, and limitations of testing.

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