Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a
disease of your heart muscle where it becomes stretched and thin.
This means that it’s unable to pump blood around your body
Inherited DCM is caused by a change or
mutation in one or more genes. If you have DCM, there is a 50
percent chance that your child will inherit the
Sometimes DCM is caused by other things, such
In these situations, it is unlikely that DCM
will be passed on through families..
How does DCM affect my heart?
If you have DCM, the left ventricle of your heart becomes dilated
(stretched or ‘baggy’). As a result, the heart muscle becomes weak,
thin or floppy and is unable to pump blood around the body
This can lead to fluid building up in the
lungs, ankles, abdomen and other organs of the body. This
collection of symptoms is known as heart
What are the symptoms?
In most cases DCM develops slowly, so some
people can have quite severe symptoms before they are diagnosed.
The most common symptoms are:
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of the ankles and
- Excessive tiredness
How is DCM diagnosed?
The most common tests for cardiomyopathy are an ECG, which records the electrical activity of
your heart, and an echocardiogram which
shows the pumping action of your heart.
Your doctor may also arrange for you to have an exercise test, angiogram or MRI
How is DCM treated?
At present there is no cure for DCM, but
treatments are available to help control your symptoms and prevent
complications. Your treatment will depend on how your heart is
affected and what symptoms you have.
For some people, a number of other conditions
can develop as a result of having HCM. These may include:
You may need:
- Medicines – to help control your blood pressure,
abnormal heart rhythms or other symptoms you may have
- A Pacemaker – to control your heart rate
- An ICD – if you are at risk of having a life
threatening abnormal heart rhythm.
How will DCM affect me?
DCM is a common form of cardiomyopathy and
research has shown that with proper treatment and follow-up, most
people with the condition live a normal life.
However, because there is a very small risk of getting a
life-threatening abnormal heart rhythm,
a small proportion of people with DCM are at risk of sudden cardiac death. It’s important to discuss
this risk with your doctor, who may offer medication or advise that
you need to have an ICD fitted if you
are at an increased risk.
You may have to make some small changes to
manage with your symptoms, but you should be able to
continue to work and drive a
car for example
However, you will not be able to drive an HGV
or commercial passenger vehicle and you may have to reconsider
manual jobs which involve strenuous activity.
For more information
For more information and advice about living
with dilated cardiomyopathy,
download or order our booklet.
BHF Genetic Information Service on 0300 456
8383 to speak to one of our specialist nurses for
information about inherited heart conditions and how they can
affect you and your family.
Our scientists are fighting for every heartbeat
The research we fund has helped push the
boundaries of our understanding of genetics, and given us tools we
can use to find and help people at risk of dangerous heart
Knowing that cardiomyopathy has a strong
genetic connection is one thing. Using that knowledge to target
drugs or other treatments is still a long way away, and we need
your help to keep working towards it.