What is pericarditis?


Know the basics

What is pericarditis?

Pericarditis is swelling and irritation of the pericardium. Pericardium is the thin sac-like membrane surrounding your heart. The sac- like membrane helps hold the heart in position in the chest and lubricate the heart. It can be acute (sudden) or chronic (long-lasting). This inflammation may cause the prricardium become scarred and thickened and the heart can be constricted (squeezed) (constrictive pericarditis). It may also cause another complication, reduced blood flow from the heart (cardiac tamponade). This occurs when too much fluid collects in the pericardium, so excess pressure on the heart doesn’t let it fill correctly. Blood pressure and heart output can fall to dangerous levels. Untreated, cardiac tamponade can cause death.

How common is pericarditis?

Pericarditis occurs in men more than women, often 20 to 50 years old. You can minimize the chance of having hernias by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of pericarditis?

Common symptom of pericarditis is sharp chest pain behind the sternum (breast bone) that may go to the shoulder and neck. Some people have dull, achy pain or pressure. Pain worsens with changes position or with deep breathing. The pain is lessened by sitting forward.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Fever occurs if infection is causing the pericarditis;
  • Palpitations (irregular or rapid heartbeats);
  • Shortness of breath.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

Seek immediate medical care if you develop new symptoms of chest pain because it may be symptom of heart attack or blood cancer.

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes pericarditis?

The common cause of pericaditis is viral infection. Pericarditis usually occur after an upper respiratory tract infections. Besides Bacterial, fungal, and other infections also can cause pericarditis.

Most cases of chronic, or recurring, pericarditis are thought to be the result of autoimmune disorders. With autoimmune disorders, the body’s immune system makes antibodies (proteins) that mistakenly attack the body’s tissues or cells and cause inflammation.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for pericarditis?

There are many risk factors for pericarditis, such as:

  • Heart attack and heart surgery.
  • Kidney failure, HIV/AIDS, cancer, tuberculosis, and other health problems.
  • Injuries from accidents or radiation therapy.
  • Certain medicines, like phenytoin (an antiseizure medicine), warfarin and heparin (blood-thinning medicines), and procainamide (a medicine to treat irregular heartbeats).

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is pericarditis diagnosed?

The doctor may make a diagnosis from your medical history, physical examination and other tests such as:

  • EKG (electrocardiogram). This simple test detects and records your heart’s electrical activity. Certain EKG results suggest pericarditis.
  • Chest x ray. A chest x ray creates pictures of the structures inside your chest, such as your heart, lungs, and blood vessels. The pictures can show whether you have an enlarged heart. This is a sign of excess fluid in your pericardium.
  • Echocardiography. This painless test uses sound waves to create pictures of your heart. The pictures show the size and shape of your heart and how well your heart is working. This test can show whether fluid has built up in the pericardium.
  • Cardiac CT (computed tomography). This is a type of x ray that takes a clear, detailed picture of your heart and pericardium. A cardiac CT helps rule out other causes of chest pain.
  • Cardiac MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). This test uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create detailed pictures of your organs and tissues. A cardiac MRI can show changes in the pericardium.
  • Blood test: helps your doctor find out the signs of inflammation and infection.

How is pericarditis treated?

Most cases of pericarditis are mild; they clear up on their own or with rest and simple treatment . Treatment mainly is medicines, other rare cases may need procedures or surgery.

As a first step in your treatment, your doctor may advise you to rest until you feel better and have no fever. He or she may tell you to take over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce pain and inflammation. Examples of these medicines include aspirin and ibuprofen.

Additional, when the disease worsen. You may need treatment for complications of pericarditis such as ardiac tamponade and chronic constrictive pericarditis.

Cardiac tamponade is treated with a procedure called pericardiocentesis A needle or tube (called a catheter) is inserted into the chest wall to remove excess fluid in the pericardium. This procedure relieves pressure on the heart.

The only cure for chronic constrictive pericarditis is surgery to remove the pericardium. This is known as a pericardiectomy.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage pericarditis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with pericarditis:

  • Re-examinate punctually to keep track on the disease’s progress and your health condition.
  • Follow doctor’s instruction
  • Stay well rested, avoid activity. Strenuous activity can cause the symptoms of pericarditis.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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