Your heart is actually encased in a protective sac called the pericardium. The pericardium consists of two layers, and in between those is a little amount of fluid that offers lubrication. Due certain things, the pericardium can become inflamed. Such is a condition referred to by doctors as pericarditis.
This article will discuss some of the most important things you need to know about pericarditis, such as its causes, types, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
Don’t forget to share this article on your various social media sites afterwards in order to get everyone you care about also introduced to some really pertinent things about this condition that affects the covering of the heart.
Most of the time, doctors are unable to identify the exact cause of pericarditis. Such is what’s known as idiopathic pericarditis — idiopathic means that the origin is unknown or seems to appear spontaneously.
In some instances, however, a viral infection may be the one responsible for pericarditis.
Other things that may cause pericarditis to come into being include: trauma to the chest, heart surgery, systemic inflammation disorders like arthritis and lupus, and medical conditions like tuberculosis, cancer, HIV and AIDS. In very rare instances, certain medications can cause pericarditis.
According to doctors, pericarditis can be classified as acute, recurrent and chronic.
Just like what the name suggests, acute pericarditis appears suddenly and doesn’t last for a very long time. Usually, it resolves on its own in less than 3 weeks. Someone who is suffering from acute pericarditis usually experiences sharp chest pain.
Pericarditis is considered as recurrent if it shows up 4 to 6 weeks after a bout of acute pericarditis. Before it appears once again, the person is absolutely free of symptoms.
Chronic pericarditis is pericarditis that lasts for several months. Doctors say that it is usually associated with inflammation taking place inside the body for a long period of time. Also, chronic pericarditis may lead to complications if it’s not treated accordingly.
The symptoms of pericarditis tend to vary, depending on which type of it is in existence — acute, recurring or chronic.
Commonly, those who have pericarditis complain about having sharp pain in the center or left side of the chest that tends to intensify when breathing in. Such is caused by the rubbing of the inflamed layers of the pericardium. However, at times the pain experienced may be dull rather than sharp.
Other common symptoms of pericarditis include: shortness of breath while in a reclined position, heart palpitations, cough, fatigue, low-grade fever, and swelling of the abdomen and/or legs.
Because pericarditis tends to produce symptoms that are similar to that of a heart attack, one of the things that a doctor does initially is to determine whether or not the individual is having a heart attack.
There are various tests or exams that can help in determining the presence of pericarditis. Some of them include: electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiogram, chest X-rat, computerized tomography (CT) scan, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Blood tests can help determine the presence of an infection — as mentioned earlier in this article, one of the probable causes of pericarditis is a viral infection.
Acute pericarditis is something that usually resolves on its own. If it’s due to a viral infection, it tends to go away even without medical treatment or intervention. However, drugs for dealing with pain or inflammation may be prescribed by a doctor for reducing the symptoms.
Chronic pericarditis most especially is associated with complications. Some of them include constrictive pericarditis (the pericardium becomes stiff) and cardiac tamponade (the accumulation of fluid in the pericardium, thus causing the heart to become compressed).
In the presence of complications, surgery may be warranted. For instance, there’s what’s called pericardiocentesis — the surgical drainage of excess fluid in the pericardium by means of a needle or catheter.