Pericarditis is inflammation of the pericardium, a membrane covering the core composed of a double layer containing liquid, whose function is to allow the sliding of this with the heart. When inflammation occurs, the fluid increases and can block the heart and make it difficult to function properly. Symptoms can vary depending on the type of pericarditis. In general, one suffers from chest pain and respiratory problems that make it challenging to carry out everyday life. This FastlyHealarticle explains pericarditis’s causes, symptoms, and treatment.
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Causes of pericarditis
The cause of pericarditis is generally unknown. However, a set of diseases involve bacterial and viral infections and can generate pericarditis as one of its symptoms. In addition, we must differentiate between acute and chronic pericarditis.
It usually appears suddenly without any associated cause, and its duration is less than six weeks. Much acute pericarditis is believed to occur due to viral infections involving a condition of the upper respiratory tract: nose, larynx, pharynx, and sinuses, and is caused by the common cold. Although most pericarditis is believed to be caused by a virus, there are no specific tests to diagnose it.
On this occasion, fluid accumulation between the pericardial membranes lasts longer than six weeks. It involves more complications than the previous one due to the risk of suffering from right ventricular failure. The fluid can accumulate in other body areas, like the abdominal area and the ankles. When fibrosis and calcification of the pericardium occurs, it presents a more rigid structure that makes it difficult for the heart to function correctly. The leading cause of chronic pericarditis is a bacterial infection.
Symptoms of pericarditis
The symptoms of pericarditis also vary depending on whether it is acute or chronic inflammation.
- Chest pain. Pain can sometimes manifest as stitches in the chest and can radiate to other body areas, such as the back, shoulders, or neck. The pain caused by pericarditis can range from mild to severe, increasing with coughing, deep inhalation, and lying flat, feeling relieved by being upright.
- Pericardial rubbing. Another possible symptom of acute pericarditis is a noise known as a pericardial rub, although not all patients usually experience it.
- Pericardial effusion. This symptom is caused by the accumulation of fluid in the pericardium, which can generate a tamponade that makes it difficult for the heart to fill with blood and interfere with its proper functioning. Sometimes it can cause death.
- Pleural effusion. Noise is also possible in the membrane surrounding the lungs from fluid build-up.
- Dyspnoea. Difficulty breathing.
- Fatigue. I was feeling tired.
- Dry cough.
The main symptom of chronic pericarditis is right heart failure. The tamponade that generates the accumulation of fluid causes the right part of the heart not to work correctly, which produces blood collection in different areas of the circulatory system. Consequently, patients with chronic constrictive pericarditis often have a swollen jugular, in addition to fluid accumulation in the lung pleura, fluid accumulation in the peritoneal area of the abdomen, and swelling in the legs.
Treatment of pericarditis
As in most cases, the cause of acute pericarditis is unknown. The treatment that is applied consists of combating the existing symptoms through rest and anti-inflammatories and trying to relieve pain. Diuretics are used to treat the accumulation of fluid, which promotes the elimination of urine. Once the patient has been cured of acute pericarditis, a medication that prevents relapse can be administered. Likewise, there is the possibility of performing a surgical intervention to remove the pericardium since it is possible to enjoy good health without it.
The only effective treatment for the definitive cure of chronic pericarditis is surgery through a pericardiectomy, in which the pericardium is removed. The results are successful in most cases, and the patient recovers quickly.
Diagnosis of pericarditis
First, the symptoms that the patient presents must be found out to be able to approach the problem. Subsequently, different tests can be carried out, both in acute and chronic pericarditis, among which the electrocardiogram, chest X-ray, magnetic resonance, or echocardiography stand out. Together with the chest X-ray, the latter allows us to observe the possible presence of fluid in the pericardium. At the same time, magnetic resonance imaging makes it easier to detect the enlargement of the pericardium.
This article is merely informative. At FastlyHeal .com, we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor if you present any type of condition or discomfort.
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I am a Surgeon with a diploma in comprehensive ultrasound and surgical care residency, an area I am specializing in. During the exercise of my profession, I have realized the need for patients to know the diseases they suffer, and I can tell you that a large part of their complications is due to a lack of information. Being a health web writer allows me to transmit my experience, without borders, to all those readers eager for knowledge, educate them in the prevention of diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle.