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What are the symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)?

In dilated cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle weakens and the heart becomes enlarged. As the heart becomes stretched, its lower chambers (ventricles) are less able to pump blood efficiently. Eventually, the heart is not able to pump enough blood to the body and the lungs become congested - a condition called heart failure.
When the left ventricle is enlarged and unable to pump enough blood to the body, the body reacts by reducing blood flow to parts of the body. This leads to symptoms that can include:  
  • Pallor: The skin may appear more pale than usual because the blood vessels close to the skin surface constrict in order to allow blood to preferentially go to the vital organs.
  • Fast heart rate: The heart beats faster in its attempt to deliver more blood to the body.
  • Arrhythmia: The sick heart may create abnormal heart rhythms, some of which may be life threatening.
  • Shortness of breath with exertion/fatigue: As the heart’s lower left chamber (ventricle) fails to pump blood out to the body effectively, proper flow of blood through the other heart chambers and the vessels from the lungs to the heart is restricted. One result can be a build-up of fluid in the lungs, which can make oxygenation more difficult. The skin may become cool and wet due to sweating (diaphoretic).
  • Poor appetite and failure to grow properly (in children): Because of the extra calories used by the heart and body to struggle to maintain proper blood flow, growth may be affected, particularly in babies.  

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.