Cardiomyopathy is a disease that damages the muscle tone of the heart and reduces its ability to pump blood to the rest of the body. Cardiomyopathy is a leading cause of heart failure and the most common reason for needing a heart transplant.
Cardiomyopathy is so dangerous because it often goes unrecognized and untreated. Also, it is different from other heart problems because it frequently affects younger people.
Cardiomyopathies cause symptoms including shortness of breath, chest pain, fainting, dizziness and a reduced ability to exercise. In addition, people with cardiomyopathy are at increased risk of abnormal heart rhythms, or arrhythmias.
Physicians classify cardiomyopathies in a number of ways, and over the years, the definition of cardiomyopathy has evolved. In 2006, the American Heart Association offered a new definition for cardiomyopathy that generally grouped cardiomyopathies into two categories: primary, which are essentially limited to the heart, and secondary, which are caused by disease in other organ systems.
For example, a cardiomyopathy that is caused by coronary artery disease is a primary cardiomyopathy (as well as an ischemic cardiomyopathy), while a cardiomyopathy caused by an autoimmune disorder is a secondary cardiomyopathy.