Causes include genetics, alcohol, cocaine, certain toxins, complications of pregnancy, and certain infections. Coronary artery disease and high blood pressure may play a role, but are not the primary cause. In many cases the cause remains unclear. It is a type of cardiomyopathy, a group of diseases that primarily affects the heart muscle. The diagnosis may be supported by an electrocardiogram, chest X-ray, or echocardiogram.
In those with heart failure, treatment may include medications in the ACE inhibitor, beta blocker, and diuretic families. A low salt diet may also be helpful. In those with certain types of irregular heartbeat, blood thinners or an implantable cardioverter defibrillator may be recommended. If other measures are not effective a heart transplant may be an option in some.
About 1 per 2,500 people are affected. It occurs more frequently in men than women. Onset is most often in middle age. Five-year survival rate is about 50%. It can also occur in children and is the most common type of cardiomyopathy in this age group.
Dilated cardiomyopathy develops insidiously, and may not initially cause symptoms significant enough to impact on quality of life. Nevertheless, many people experience significant symptoms. These might include:
A person suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy may have an enlarged heart, with pulmonary edema and an elevated jugular venous pressure and a low pulse pressure. Signs of mitral and tricuspid regurgitation may be present.