Myocarditis and Pericarditis

by Sam Malone

Myocarditis is an uncommon disorder of the heart muscle. Due to an infection (fungal, bacterial or viral), the heart muscle gets inflamed. If the infection develops in the heart, these cells enter the heart and damage the heart muscle. This results in a weak, inflamed muscle and may lead to heart failure if not treated in time.

Causes of Myocarditis

These include:

  • Viral infections such as hepatitis C, herpes, HIV, and Cytomegalovirus
  • Bacterial infections such as Chlamydia and Streptococcus
  • Fungal infections such as Candidia and Histoplasma
  • Other causes of myocarditis may include allergic reactions to certain medications, chemicals, heavy metals, alcohol and drugs
  • Diseases that cause inflammation in the body such as rheumatoid arthritis may also lead to myocarditis
  • Pregnancy

Symptoms of Myocarditis

In some cases there may be no symptoms. In others, the symptoms may resemble flu and make diagnosis difficult. Symptoms of mayocarditis include:

  • An abnormal heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Constant fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Skin rashes
  • Headaches
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Fainting
  • Decreased urination

Treatment for Myocarditis

Depending on the cause of the problem, myocarditis treatment may include medications such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and diuretics along with lifestyle changes such as a low-salt diet and reduced activity. If symptoms such as irregular heartbeat exist, additional medications such as blood thinners and a pacemaker may be necessary.

The prognosis for myocarditis cannot be predicted. During the initial stages, treatment could result in complete recovery. Other cases may develop into heart failure and other medical complications.

Pericarditis: The pericardium is the fluid-filled sac that surrounds the heart. When the pericardium becomes inflamed, it is known as pericarditis. The pericardium functions as a shock absorber for the heart and protects it from injury. The fluid inside the pericardium acts as a lubricant and enables the heart to function efficiently. Finally, the pericardium behaves like an anchor and fixes the muscles of the heart to the chest muscles. When the pericardium is inflamed it can result in sharp or severe chest pain but rarely does in result in any type of heart damage. In most cases, pericarditis is not considered a serious medical condition and can be treated effectively at home.

Symptoms of Pericarditis

  • Chest pain that may be sharp and sudden or dull and aching
  • Usually the pain occurs on the left side of the body just behind the breastbone
  • Pain may radiate from the chest to the shoulder and neck
  • Pain increases when lying down, eating or coughing. Pain reduces when sitting up or leaning forward
  • Other symptoms that may accompany chest pain include mild fever, difficulty breathing, fatigue, nausea, dry cough and swelling of the abdomen and legs
Types of Pericarditis: There are three main types of pericarditis such as:

  • Acute Pericarditis – The symptoms of this type of pericarditis do not last for more than three months and usually disappear with proper treatment. Most cases of acute pericarditis are caused by a viral infection.
  • Recurring Pericarditis – This type involves recurring bouts of acute pericarditis. Recurring pericarditis may develop as a reaction of the immune system against a previous infection.
  • Chronic Pericarditis – Symptoms in this type last for longer than three months. While symptoms many be milder, the long-term effects can be more damaging to the person’s overall health.

Treatment for Pericarditis

Medication for pericarditis usually includes NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Colchicine is an alternative medicine that is used if symptoms do not reduce with NSAIDs.

In cases of chronic pericarditis, the underlying cause of the condition needs to be treated. In rare cases, surgery may be required to treat pericarditis.



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