Pericarditis Overview

Pericarditis is inflammation of the pericardial sac, the thin sac that surrounds the heart. The inflammation can cause chest pain and can affect the heart's ability to function properly. It is a serious condition that can be life-threatening if not treated quickly. Most cases of pericarditis are caused by viruses, but other causes can include bacterial infections, autoimmune disorders, injuries, or cancer.

Symptoms of Pericarditis

The primary symptom of pericarditis is chest pain. This pain is usually sharp, and it is often located in the area of the center of the chest. The pain might be worse when you lie down or when you take deep breaths. Other symptoms can include fever, difficulty breathing, and fatigue.

Treatments for Pericarditis

The treatment for pericarditis depends on the cause. For cases caused by viruses, treatment may involve rest and ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory medications. More severe cases may require corticosteroids or other medications to reduce the inflammation. For cases caused by bacterial infections, antibiotics are used. For cases caused by autoimmune disorders, immunosuppressive drugs may need to be taken. Surgery may also be needed in some cases.

Preventing Pericarditis

The best way to prevent pericarditis is to practice good hygiene and follow medical advice to treat any underlying conditions. Make sure to wash your hands regularly, keep up to date with medical checkups, and reduce stress as much as possible. If you have a heart condition, make sure to follow your doctor's instructions carefully to reduce the risk of developing pericarditis.

Complications of Pericarditis

If left untreated, pericarditis can cause serious complications, including abnormal heart rhythms, congestive heart failure, and cardiac tamponade, a life-threatening condition in which fluid builds up in the pericardial sac and puts pressure on the heart. Treatment is important to reduce these risks and ensure a full recovery.

When to See a Doctor

If you experience any of the symptoms of pericarditis, you should see a doctor immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce the risk of serious complications and improve the chances of a full recovery.

Risks and Complications related to Pericarditis

  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Cardiac tamponade