Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Cardiomyopathy is a heart muscle disease that affects the heart’s ability to pump properly.

Download a PDF version

In dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) the pumping chambers of the heart become enlarged (dilated). When this happens, the heart muscle becomes weak, thin, and is unable to pump blood around the body efficiently.

This can lead to fluid building up in the lungs, ankles, abdomen and other organs of the body resulting in a feeling of being breathless. This is part of a collection of symptoms is known as ‘heart failure’.

dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is often a genetic condition. Dilated cardiomyopathy may not limit the quality of life, however some people experience significant symptoms and there is sometimes a risk of sudden death.

Some non-genetic conditions are known to be linked to an increased risk of developing DCM. These are:

  • viral infections
  • auto-immune disease
  • exposure to toxins or certain medicines

There are also occasions where the condition may be related to pregnancy.

Read more about the genetics of cardiomyopathy


Our helpline nurse is available on weekdays between 8.30am and 4.30pm. Call 0800 018 1024 or email your question to supportnurse@cardiomyopathy.org

More information

Our free booklet 'Life with Dilated Cardiomyopathy' is available to view or download.

Download a copy of our Living with Cardiomyopathy booklet

We also have an information and support leaflet explaining the different ways you can get support

Or if you would prefer hard copies please fill out an order form (UK only)

Further reading

At 46 Simon had discovered he'd inherited his father's dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). He then got an ICD before being told he'd need a heart transplant - read his story

Professor Andre Ng talks about cardiomyopathy and heart failure

The importance of family screening

Professor Perry Elliott, consultant cardiologist at the Heart Hospital in London, answers questions relating to dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Dr Maite Tome, consultant cardiologist at the Heart Hospital, London talks about exercise in dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)