What is Endocarditis?

Endocarditis is an inflammation of the inner membrane layer that surrounds the heart’s chambers and valves. It is usually caused by bacterial or fungal infection that enter the bloodstream and settle in these sensitive tissues. Left untreated, endocarditis can result in serious complications, including stroke, heart failure and death.

What are the Symptoms of Endocarditis?

The symptoms of endocarditis can vary in severity, but may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Joint swelling or pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood

People who have previously had endocarditis are more likely to experience a relapse, so they should pay special attention to any changes in their health.

How is Endocarditis Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of endocarditis can involve a combination of imaging tests, such as an echocardiograph or MRI scan, as well as blood tests. If necessary, the patient may need to undergo surgery to remove and replace a valve.

How is Endocarditis Treated?

Treatment for endocarditis is aimed at wiping out the infection and preventing any damage to the patient’s heart. Depending upon the type of infection present, antibiotics, antifungal medications and possibly other anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed.

In some cases, endocarditis may not be completely cured with medications. In these cases, surgery is often necessary to replace the affected valve and prevent further damage to the heart.

Preventing Endocarditis

The best way to avoid endocarditis is to practice good hygiene and incorporate healthy lifestyle habits, such as quitting smoking, eating a balanced diet and avoiding contact with contaminated water.

People with certain pre-existing heart conditions, and those who have had endocarditis in the past, may want to talk to their doctor about taking preventive antibiotics before undergoing certain medical procedures, such as a dental procedure or surgery.