About the disease
Pericarditis is the condition, when the pericardium becomes inflamed. The pericardium is a sac-like tissue, which surrounds the heart. Pericardium is responsible for keeping the heart in place and also for helping it work. As pericardium consists of two thin layers, which create the sac-like tissue, there is a very small amount of fluid surround them. This fluid is needed to prevent friction from the two thin layers, that create the sac-like tissue. During pericarditis pericardium becomes inflamed. Its most common manifestation is the chest pain. This pain can appear if the friction between two layers of the pericardium occurs and thus results in pericardium rubbing against the heart. Nevertheless, chest pain, no matter numb or acute, is a medical emergency. As symptoms of pericarditis are similar to heart attack, especially in the intensity of a chest pain, a person must call emergency upon noticing any symptoms, as a person could be having a heart attack. Pericarditis is also dangerous and can lead to other heart problems, that's why timely diagnosis is so important.
There are several factors which can cause pericarditis. The most common cause of pericarditis is an infection. Both viral and bacterial infection can lead to development of pericarditis. Even fungal pericarditis can lead to pericarditis. If pericarditis is mild, this disease can subside on its own and a person then recovers without needing any treatment. In other cases, such as acute or chronic pericarditis, a person needs to undergo intense treatment to avoid complications. Pericarditis can develop as a result of previous heart attack or surgery on the heart. That`s why people with previous heart conditions need to checked by the cardiologist regularly to avoid complications.
- Chest pain
- Pain can be acute or numb
- Stabbing sensation in the chest
- Pressure in the chest
- Pain may radiate from left or right side of the chest, in some cases even from shoulders
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling in the stomach or legs in rare cases of chronic cases of pericarditis
- During a general examination, a doctor will ask about a medical history of a patient to determine if he/she had any heart problems in the past. He will also inquire if a person has contracted any infections lately. A doctor will then listen to a person's heart to determine if the heartbeat is strong and normal.
- An X-ray of the chest and ECG used to examine the heart and pericardium and rule out other factors which could be causing chest pain.
- Echocardiography is used to create the image of the heart and determine if the pericardium looks normal. Usually, in cases of pericarditis there is a collection of fluid in the pericardium which creates the inflammation. A heart can be enlarged as well because of pericarditis.
- Conservative treatment uses anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate the pain. If pericarditis was caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics can be prescribed. If pericarditis was caused by viral infection, antiviral drugs can be prescribed in that case.
- Pericardial drainage is a surgery used to remove the excess fluid from the pericardium and to prevent inflammation in future. This surgery is performed using a catheter which removes the excess fluid and relieves the pressure, thus eliminating chest pain as well.