Can a Person Die From Endocarditis?
The grave question is “Can a person die of endocarditis” and the simple answer is “Yes, a person can die of endocarditis”. Now what is this life threatening disease? Endocarditis, also generally known as infective endocarditis, is the inflammation of the heart’s inner lining, called endocardium. It is mostly caused by bacteria, but can also be caused by fungi or other germs in our blood stream that travel to our heart to cause the infection.
Endocarditis is a fatal condition, but it can surely be treated with immediate medical help, so it is necessary to visit a doctor when first signs and symptoms are noted without neglecting them. It can also be prevented by simply keeping good oral hygiene and with regular dental visit for maintaining dental hygiene.
What are the Risk Factors For Developing Endocarditis?
Usually, endocarditis is less common in healthy individuals with healthy hearts. It is more common in people with heart disease such as congenital heart defect, heart valve defect, artificial heart valve replacement, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, history of previous endocarditis, long term use of catheters or the use of IV drugs using contaminated needles. Endocarditis may also develop due to poor dental hygiene or STDs.
Red Flag Signs To Look For In Endocarditis
The signs to look for in endocarditis include fever, chills, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, night sweats, shortness of breath, chest pain on breathing, swelling of extremities, weight loss, red spots or petechiae. When you notice these signs, you should immediately visit your doctor. Doctor may also notice heart murmur on auscultation and also might notice blood in urine on urine examination. If one has a risk factor for endocarditis with heart defect or previous history of endocarditis then they should be particularly wary of it and immediately seek medical help to be evaluated.
How is Endocarditis Diagnosed?
A person should be thorough with one’s medical history and it is pertinent to let your doctor know that. A medical practitioner will then order certain tests such as CBT (complete blood test) to look for anemia that is common in endocarditis. Endocarditis is mostly diagnosed with electrocardiogram and echocardiogram can also be done to diagnose. To further evaluate the spread of infection to other organs chest X-ray, MRI or CT scan can be done.
Treatment of Endocarditis
Endocarditis is treated mostly with a course of antibiotic if it is caused by bacterial infection. Prompt treatment of endocarditis is needed to prevent any further complications such as stroke or heart failure. Usually most of the cases are treated successfully with a course of IV/oral antibiotic over a course of 4 to 6 weeks, but some cases might require surgery to treat them. Fungal endocarditis is treated with antifungals. Endocarditis has a high mortality and morbidity rate, 1 in every 5. Usually, 20% patients also might require surgery if symptoms persist even with oral/IV treatment.
How Can Endocarditis be Prevented?
The best way of preventing endocarditis is being aware of signs and symptoms and seeing a doctor if noticed. If one is at a greater risk for endocarditis, it is better to limit exposure to any infection that might trigger it. Endocarditis can recur in people with previous history of endocarditis, so they need to be extra careful and should take prompt medical attention when notice any symptoms of it.
The most common risk factor is poor oral hygiene as there is a greater chance of germs entering the bloodstream orally. We generally, neglect our dental hygiene, but it is imperative to keep proper oral hygiene with regular dental visits to maintain good oral hygiene. It is good for heart health as well as dental health. Dental infection might lead to SABE (subacute bacterial endocarditis), so antibiotic prophylaxis is needed to prevent SABE. Also one needs to inform their dental practitioner of any cardiac history. We need to regularly brush and floss our teeth with regular scaling to prevent any gum infection.
One must also take good care of our skin to prevent any infection of skin that might lead to endocarditis, also taking proper wound care and completing the full course of antibiotics prescribed by the doctor. Avoiding cosmetic procedures such as body piercing or tattooing that might make you at higher risk of endocarditis especially if infected needles are used. Also avoiding illicit IV drug use.