Pericarditis is a heart condition characterized by inflammation of the pericardium, the thin sac-like membrane surrounding the heart, according to the Cleveland Clinic . There were 16,475 recorded cases of acute pericarditis hospitalization in 2016, as per a 2020 study published in the journal Expert Review of Cardiovascular Therapy. Unfortunately, cases only increased in the days following the COVID-19 pandemic, explains a 2022 study published in the journal Nature Medicine.
The causes of pericarditis vary and cannot be precisely determined in every case (via Mayo Clinic ). In fact, the condition can develop after a heart attack. It can occur as part of an autoimmune disease, like lupus. With such conditions, the body's immune system attacks the pericardial tissue, causing inflammation.
Viral infections, like COVID-19, are also responsible for the disease. In addition to viruses, bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infections can trigger pericarditis, per the Cleveland Clinic. Fortunately, determining some indicators may be able to help diagnose the issue.
Signs Of Pericarditis
One typical pericarditis symptom is aching in the chest, usually localized under the breastbone, according to the experts at Mayo Clinic . The pain usually worsens when lying down than when sitting and often radiates to the neck and left shoulder. Heart palpitations might accompany the condition, and in some cases, sufferers also complain of shortness of breath and a low-grade fever. Some people might feel discomfort when they take a deep breath or cough. Other indications include swelling in the leg or stomach and fatigue. However, signs of pericarditis are not always clear since they could be close to those of other heart or lung conditions. Therefore, it is important to seek prompt medical attention if you experience chest pain or other symptoms of pericarditis. Early treatment can help reduce the risk of complications and improve outcomes. Your healthcare provider can determine the best course of action for your individual case and help manage your symptoms effectively.
How Is Pericarditis Diagnosed And Treated?
Diagnosis is typically made through a physical examination. During your visit to the doctor, the expert may run an electrocardiogram (ECG), or cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), explains the Mayo Clinic . As for the treatment of pericarditis, doctors may include anti-inflammatory medications, and antibiotics, if caused by an infection, or they may just drain the fluid in the pericardial space in severe cases. Other times, pericarditis may resolve on its own without treatment.
Overall, the prognosis for pericarditis is generally good with proper treatment. Most people experience a full recovery and can return to normal activities within a few weeks to a few months (via the Mayo Clinic ). However, if the condition is chronic or dangerous complications, such as cardiac tamponade characterized by fluid buildup, arise, it will require drainage, according to the Cleveland Clinic . Surgery might also be required for people with constrictive pericarditis.
Generally speaking, it's important to be vigilant about monitoring your symptoms. However, with appropriate care, people with pericarditis can go on to live healthy and active lives.
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