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What is Viral Cardiomyopathy?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Viral cardiomyopathy is a heart condition caused by a viral infection in the heart. The heart weakens and does not work as well as it should, causing a variety of problems for the patient. Once diagnosed with cardiomyopathy of any kind, the prognosis for the patient is variable, depending on how severe the condition is and what kinds of treatment options are available. Generally, the weakening of the heart will force the patient to make some permanent lifestyle changes.

Viral infections of the heart are not uncommon. Some resolve on their own, especially in healthy individuals, and leave no lasting problems behind. In other patients, the viral infection causes inflammation, and this damages the muscles in the heart, causing viral cardiomyopathy. Most commonly, viral cardiomyopathy presents as a form of dilated cardiomyopathy, where the chambers of the heart enlarge and the heart has to work harder to pump blood throughout the body.

The initial viral infection may not cause symptoms, or it may lead to symptoms so mild the patient never seeks treatment. Over time, the weakening of the heart causes issues like shortness of breath, dizziness, and fatigue. Medical imaging studies can reveal the enlargement of the heart, and the patient can also undergo testing to assess heart function and see how hard the heart is working.

People with viral cardiomyopathy can be treated with medications to improve heart function, and it's also possible to make some diet and lifestyle modifications to improve the prognosis for a patient with this condition. Some people benefit from alternative therapies to improve circulation, such as acupuncture. Usually, the patient will need to rest, refrain from high intensity exercise and hard labor, and be careful about exertion in other settings, as the enlarged heart cannot cope with the increased oxygen needs that accompany hard work.

Some patients are more at risk for viral infections of the heart than others, and some viruses are more likely to lead to viral cardiomyopathy. People with active viral infections should seek treatment, as it may be possible to avoid complications like viral cardiomyopathy by providing aggressive and timely treatment for viruses. Patients with a history of viral infection should also make sure their physicians are aware of it during routine health screening, as the virus may be an important diagnostic clue if a doctor is concerned about a patient's heart function or other issues.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon341250 — On Jul 09, 2013

My husband was diagnosed with viral myocarditis, then after not taking care of himself it progressed into cardiomyopathy. He was cured by an anointed pastor, then maintained good health through a vegan, macrobiotic diet.

By anon341135 — On Jul 08, 2013

If the doctor gave her antibiotics to clear a viral infection, she should seek a new doctor. Antibiotics, no matter how "strong," treat bacterial infections and have zero effect on viruses.

By anon341116 — On Jul 08, 2013

Antibiotics will not get rid of a viral infection. Ever. They only kill bacteria. They are for bacterial infections, only. Taking them for a viral infection is senseless, useless and can and does lead to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

By kylee07drg — On Aug 04, 2011

When my dad developed dilated cardiomyopathy from a viral infection, his doctor explained to us exactly what was going on with him. He said that the main pumping chamber was dilated, enlarged, and weak. Because of this, the heart chambers stretched to hold more blood.

They did this to strengthen the contraction of the heart and to keep the blood flowing, but it only worked for a short while. Over time, the muscle walls weakened and could not pump very strongly.

My dad’s kidneys responded to this weakened blood flow by retaining sodium and water. The fluid built up in his ankles, feet, and legs, and his body became congested. Therefore, he had congestive heart failure.

By StarJo — On Aug 04, 2011

Once my grandmother got over her viral cardiomyopathy, she knew that she would have to live life differently to take care of her heart. In addition to having to take beta blockers and blood thinners for the rest of her life, she needed to change her diet and activity level.

Her doctor told her that salt could harm her. He said she should restrict her sodium intake to 3,000 mg per day. She would need to do this for the rest of her life.

While totally abandoning all exercise would be detrimental to her health, she did need to slow down. She had worked out regularly at the gym, but her doctor told her not to lift heavy weights anymore. He said that she could do light aerobic exercise, but no cardio.

By shell4life — On Aug 03, 2011

@lighth0se33 - My aunt also had this condition. She, too, had an abnormal heart rhythm and fatigue, but she also had unexplained weight gain, and she would faint after any sort of exercise. Her legs and feet were swollen with fluid.

Her husband forced her to see a physician. After an MRI, he determined that she had viral cardiomyopathy. He gave her some very strong antibiotics to get rid of the viral infection.

He also spotted some blood clots. He gave her blood thinners and anticoagulants to dissolve them. He also prescribed medicine to get her heart rate back to normal.

By lighth0se33 — On Aug 02, 2011

My sister developed viral cardiomyopathy. She didn’t know she had it until her heart had already become enlarged due to all the fluid.

She felt chest pain that moved into her shoulders. She had heart palpitations, and she felt unbelievably tired after just a small amount of exertion. She often felt lightheaded as well.

She went to her doctor to rule out a heart attack. He did an ECG and diagnosed her with viral cardiomyopathy. Her condition was so severe that she had to undergo heart surgery, and the surgeon removed parts of her heart that were diseased.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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