Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Cardiomyopathy

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Cardiomyopathy refers to a range of diseases in which your heart muscle can’t pump blood as well as it should.
  • Cardiomyopathy may be inherited or caused by many different triggers.
  • You may have no symptoms, or you may suffer from shortness of breath, chest pain, faintness, palpitations or leg swelling.
  • A healthy lifestyle can reduce your chances of developing some types of cardiomyopathy and prevent worsening of all types.

What is cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy refers to a range of diseases that affect your heart muscle. If you have cardiomyopathy, your heart can't pump blood as well as it should.

There are different types of cardiomyopathy, each with different causes.

Most people with cardiomyopathy are only mildly affected and can lead fairly normal lives. However, if you have cardiomyopathy and your heart muscle gets too weak, you can develop symptoms of heart failure that require treatment.

What causes cardiomyopathy?

Often the cause is unknown. Sometimes it can be inherited — you may have a known family history of cardiomyopathy or you may be the first family member to be diagnosed.

Sometimes cardiomyopathy can be caused by one of the following:

ARE YOU AT RISK? — Are you at risk of heart disease? Use the Risk Checker to find out.

What are the types of cardiomyopathy?

There are 4 main (most common) types of cardiomyopathy. They can affect you in different ways.

  • In dilated cardiomyopathy, your heart muscle stretches and becomes thinner and weaker so it can't pump as effectively.
  • In hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, your heart muscle enlarges, and the walls of the heart thicken, blocking blood flow out of your heart.
  • In restrictive cardiomyopathy, your heart becomes stiff and rigid and can’t relax enough to pump properly.
  • In arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, part of your heart muscle is replaced with scar tissue. This can disrupt the heart’s electrical activity, causing irregular heart rhythms.

What are the symptoms of cardiomyopathy?

You may have no symptoms from your cardiomyopathy. Alternatively, you might have some of the following symptoms due to your cardiomyopathy affecting your heart function:

In children, you might notice that they become more breathless than other children their age. They may also have a cough, chest pain, palpitations, fainting, tummy pains, nausea or reduced appetite. Any of these symptoms in children need to be checked by a doctor.

In babies, you might notice heavy breathing or sweating while they are feeding, and poor weight gain.

You should see your doctor if you or your child are experiencing symptoms, or if you have a family history of cardiomyopathy.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

How is cardiomyopathy diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, examine you and recommend tests. These may include an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram and others. They might also recommend genetic testing.

How can I prevent cardiomyopathy?

You can’t prevent hereditary cardiomyopathy, or cardiomyopathy caused by viral infections, chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer.

You can lower your risk of developing conditions that can lead to other types of cardiomyopathy by leading a healthy lifestyle. For example:

How will I be treated for cardiomyopathy?

If you have cardiomyopathy, it's especially important to live a healthy lifestyle. This can help prevent or slow progression of your cardiomyopathy.

However, some people will also need medicines, surgery or an implantable device to keep their heart working properly.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

Resources and support

For more information about cardiomyopathy, talk to your doctor or visit the Cardiomyopathy Association of Australia website.

You can also call healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222 for 24 hour health advice you can count on.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2022


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is a condition in which your heart muscle becomes inflamed and enlarged. Because it is enlarged, your heart muscle is stretched and becomes weak. This means it can’t pump blood as fast as it should.

Read more on WA Health website

Cardiomyopathy - St Vincent's Heart Health

Learn more about cardiomyopathy including the causes, symptoms, possible tests and treatments.

Read more on St Vincent's Hospital Heart Health website

Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy - St Vincent's Heart Health

Learn more about Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, the causes, symptoms, possible tests and treatments.

Read more on St Vincent's Hospital Heart Health website

Heart failure

Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle has become too weak to pump blood through the body as effectively as normal.

Read more on WA Health website

Coronary heart disease

The underlying cause of coronary heart disease is a slow build up of fatty deposits on the inner wall of the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle with blood (the coronary arteries).

Read more on WA Health website

Creatine kinase MB (CKMB) | Pathology Tests Explained

CK–MB is one of three forms (or isoenzymes) of the enzyme creatine kinase (CK). CK–MB is found mostly in heart muscle. It rises when there is any damage to h

Read more on Pathology Tests Explained website

Genes, genetic testing and heart conditions | Heart Foundation

Inherited heart conditions are a group of conditions that affect the heart and can be passed on through families.

Read more on Heart Foundation website

Amyloidosis - Better Health Channel

A person with amyloidosis produces aggregates of insoluble protein that cannot be eliminated from the body.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

What is heart failure? | Heart Foundation

Heart failure is a condition where your heart isn’t pumping blood to the rest of your body as well as it should. If your heart is damaged or not pumping properly, it can become enlarged, weak or stiff.

Read more on Heart Foundation website

Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is one of a number of disorders commonly referred to as arrhythmias, where your heart does not beat normally.

Read more on WA Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.