dilated cardiomyopathy


Dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM, is a disease of the heart muscle. It happens when your left ventricle, your heart’s main pumping chamber, widens or “dilates” so that it can’t pump blood well. Over time, the disease weakens your heart muscle and can lead to congestive heart failure

Doctors can’t always pinpoint a cause for dilated cardiomyopathy. It can be genetic, meaning you inherit it. Certain diseases, infections, cancer medications and substance abuse may increase your risk. Though you can develop the disease at any age, it’s most common in people between 20 and 60, and it affects men more often than women.


The most common symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy are:

  • Irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias)
  • Blood clots 
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue 
  • Heart valve problems
  • Palpitations or fluttering in your chest 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in your ankles, feet and legs
  • Weight gain, cough and congestion 


To diagnose dilated cardiomyopathy, your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about any symptoms you have. He or she will also order diagnostic tests, such as:

services & treatment

If you’re diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, your doctor will work with you on a treatment plan tailored to your needs. It may include lifestyle changes to improve your health, such as diet and exercise. Your doctor may also prescribe medications such as blood thinners or diuretics. or medications such as:

  • ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs)
  • Aldosterone antagonists 
  • Beta blockers 
  • Blood thinners 
  • Digitalis 
  • Diuretics 

Other options might include implantable devices to protect your heart, such as a pacemaker, defibrillator, or heart pump.

Your doctor may also recommend surgery to repair your heart muscle tissue or valves or, if your case is severe, a heart transplant.

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Aurora Health Care offers coordinated care for preventing, diagnosing and treating heart and vascular disease. World-renowned heart and vascular specialists diagnose and treat all types of cardiovascular conditions and disorders, using the most advanced state-of-the-art tools and technologies available today. 

We have 15 hospitals and 155 clinics throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois so you can find a location that's closest to you. 

What’s all this mean to you? Convenient, coordinated and expert care.  

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