What is Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)?
• DCM is a condition where the heart chambers become enlarged (dilated), which affects its ability to pump.
• The left ventricle of the heart becomes enlarged and the muscle wall becomes thinner.
• Studies suggest that around 1 in 250 people have DCM, although this may be an underestimate.
Typical symptoms include the following:
• Breathlessness (or dyspnoea) – fluid builds-up in the lungs, making it harder to breathe.
• Swollen legs, ankles and tummy – build-up of fluid in the tissues, because the heart isn’t pumping effectively.
• Fatigue (tiredness) – as the heart’s function is reduced, less energy is delivered to the tissues.
• Palpitations (feeling your heart beating too fast, too hard or like it is ‘fluttering’).
• Chest pain – caused by reduced oxygen levels.
There are several tests that might be used to diagnose DCM, including the following:
• Medical history – to look at symptoms and whether other family members have this condition (as it can be genetic).
• Physical exam – to see what physical symptoms, if any, are happening.
• ECG (electrocardiogram) – this looks at the electrical activity of the heart and whether arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) are happening.
• Exercise tests – these are tests done during exercise, such as on an exercise bike or a treadmill, to look at how the heart works during exertion (where it is under increased pressure to work) and measure oxygen consumption during exercise.
Treatment for DCM aims to control symptoms and reduce complications, and the condition itself may improve with treatment. However, ongoing monitoring of treatment and symptoms is important. Treatment is individualised to the symptoms someone experiences.