Signs & Symptoms of Pericarditis

The symptoms of pericarditis vary depending on the type of pericarditis. Episodes of acute pericarditis usually last for up to a few weeks before disappearing while symptoms of chronic pericarditis last for upwards of six months.

Some of the symptoms associated with pericarditis are:

  • Sharp stabbing pain behind the breastbone on the left side of the chest.
  • A dull ache that may vary in intensity.
  • Pain intensifies while lying down or inhaling deeply.
  • Sitting up or leaning forward eases the pain.
  • Coughing or swallowing food may intensify the pain.
  • Shortness of breath while lying down.
  • Low grade fever.
  • A general feeling of weakness and fatigue and a sense of unease.
  • Persistent dry cough
  • Swelling in the leg or abdomen.
Many of the symptoms of pericarditis are similar to those of a heart attack, so it is imperative to seek prompt medical attention if you experience any kind of chest pain. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can lead to a favorable outcome while any delay in treatment can lead to complications that are life- threatening. As an example, the chest pain may be caused by pericarditis brought on by a heart attack or a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs). 
Frequently asked questions
  1. Brent E. Mabey, Ron M. Walls, Acute pericarditis, The Journal of Emergency Medicine, Volume 3, Issue 6, 1985, Pages 457-467, ISSN 0736-4679, 10.1016/0736-4679(85)90005-8.
  2. Susy S. Hota, ChiMing Chow, Daniel Bonneau, Robert J. Chisholm, Surgical treatment for incessant pericarditis, Canadian Journal of Cardiology, Volume 25, Issue 3, March 2009, Pages 161-162, ISSN 0828-282X, 10.1016/S0828-282X(09)70048-0.