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Pericarditis, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Table of Contents

  1. Pericarditis
  2. Symptoms of pericarditis
  3. Who gets pericarditis?
  4. How is pericarditis diagnosed?
  5.  Treatment of pericarditis


It is the inflammation of pericardium. It is an acute disease and develop suddenly which may last for few months. In case if you can see it then it look like red and swollen just like the skin surrounding a cut which become inflamed. In some cases the pericardial fluid start developing in between the pericardial layers which may cause a pericardial effusion.


Symptoms of pericarditis

The possible chest pain symptoms are:

  • Stabbing and sharpness which is caused by the rubbing of heart against your pericardium
  • It is known to increase with swallowing, lying flat, coughing and deep breathing
  • It can be easily relieved with leaning forward and sitting upsymp per
  • In some cases you need to hold your chest or bend over to breath easily

Other symptoms include:

  • Severe pain in left shoulder, neck and back
  • Feel difficulty while breathing when you lay down
  • Extremely dry cough
  • Fatigue or anxiety

It is also reported that the swelling of ankles, legs and feet are also caused by the pericarditis. The swelling is possibly due to pericarditis, which is one of the serious type of pericarditis. In case of constrictive pericarditis the pericardium becomes hardened and hence prevent the expansion of heart muscles and affects the functioning of your heart. During constrictive process the heart may be compressed and as a result the blood may back up in to the abdomen, lungs and legs and cause swelling.

If you think that you are getting affected by pericarditis then call on your doctor on urgent basis.

Who gets pericarditis?

Although pericarditis may affect the women but most of the cases have been reported in males having age in between 20 to 50.

What causes pericarditis?

Number of causes are known for pericarditis, but the major factor behind a pericarditis is the viral infection. The virus which affects can vary such as gastrointestinal virus, in some rare cases a flu virus or it may be caused by an AIDS virus.

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The other causes of pericarditis may include the rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and scleroderma. Some rare causes of pericarditis may include any kind of chest injury called traumatic pericarditis while some health problems like tumors, kidney failure, medications which suppress the immune system and genetic disorders like Familial Mediterranean.

The risk factor for pericarditis is at the highest after having a heart surgery or heart attack. Additionally after exposing to radiation therapy or having a percutaneous treatment, or radiofrequency ablation and cardiac catheterization.

Most of the scientists believe that it results as a cause during which body produce itself inflammatory response to the pericardium. In case if you are exposed to bypass surgery the symptoms don’t produce for few weeks. In most of the cases the real cause behind pericarditis is unknown. If cause of pericarditis is unknown it is referred to as idiopathic pericarditis.

How is pericarditis diagnosed?

The diagnosis completely depends on the symptoms. The more the pain is in the back and chest and in the shoulders and difficulty during breathing is the main cause of your pericarditis. The doctor may ask about your complete medical history whether you have a viral infection or not in your past. Tell him complete details of your history about heart attacks, or heart surgery, kidney failure and lupus. All of these conditions may increase the risk of pericarditis.

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The physical exam may also be performed to get information about the rhythmic effects of your heart. The pericardium is known to cause the cracking or rubbing sound known as pericardial rub. This sound is created by the rubbing action of the inflammation caused by the limning of the heart. This sound can be easily seen when a person lean forward and hold his breath and then breathing out. In case if the inflammation is found then your doctor may hear the sound of your lungs to figure out the extent of inflammation. Additionally sound produce by the fluid around the lungs and fluid that is present in the pericardium.

 Treatment of pericarditis

The treat may depend on the symptoms and the extent of how severe is you condition. It normally include medications which facilitate you and relieve pain and inflammation. The medications include the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs which also include ibuprofen. You doctor may also prescribe antibiotic and antifungal depending on the conditions and symptoms.

The drug colchicine may be prescribed incase if your symptoms doesn’t get mild ad remain for more than 2 weeks and if they recur again. But it always employed in combination with ibuprofen. Colchicine is known since centuries for its anti-inflammatory actions which help to control the inflammation and hence prevent the dangerous pericarditis and its recurrent attacks.

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In addition to high doses of ibuprofen the doctor also prescribe medications which are helpful against gastrointestinal problems. In case when you are given high doses of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines you must be followed up to make changes in the functioning pf your kidneys and lungs. This will facilitate the normal functioning of these organs and allow you to get better results after medication.

Few people have also reported a chronic type of pericarditis during which after medications the symptoms may arise or disease come back son after you left the medicines. In that case the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are advice for years, additionally they must carry on to take the colchicine. These medicines are necessary even if you think that you are now getting well and are out of any risk to get back the same disease.

In all the above mentioned treatments the steroids such as prednisone are prescribed, but t it is now proved that in that case you need extra medicines which will prevent the disease to come back again. This is not advisable because every medicine has its own limitations, but there is no other treatment available in the market which will facilitate you against the pericardium. Additionally the steroids are known to activate the viral infection again and some people may become dependent on the narcotics to get relieve against pain.

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