Endocarditis is a rare condition in which the lining of the heart including the valves is inflamed because of infection, mostly bacterial (streptococcus, staphylococcus, entercoccus), but can be due to other micro-organisms such as fungi (candida, aspergillus). It can become life threatening if it is not treated promptly and may even lead to death.
What Are The Symptoms Of Endocarditis?
Endocarditis presents with symptoms of high-grade fever, sweats and chills, chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle/joint pain, cough, weight loss, loss of appetite, headache, and skin rashes.
Endocarditis can be of two types, acute and chronic endocarditis.
Acute Endocarditis occurs when an aggressive species of bacteria lodges in the valves of the heart, such as staphylococcus species. If acute endocarditis is left untreated then it can be fatal within 6 weeks.
Chronic Endocarditis is also known as subacute endocarditis (SABE); it is mostly caused by streptococcus species, which is less aggressive than staphylococcus. This is a slow progressing disease and it becomes fatal after 6 weeks to one year of infection. People with poor oral hygiene are at a greater risk of developing SABE and usually the bacteria from oral flora cause SABE.
Endocarditis is more common in males than in females and the people who are at a greater risk of endocarditis are people who already have a history of endocarditis, congenital heart defect, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, prosthetic heart valve replacement, valve defects such as leaky valve or valvular prolapse and IV drug users. Generally, healthy individuals are not at a risk for endocarditis.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Endocarditis is mostly diagnosed with the help of complete medical/cardiac history, physical examination. The most definitive diagnoses of endocarditis are positive lab blood culture and positive electrocardiogram. Other tests can also be done such as echocardiogram, chest X-ray, CT scan or MRI to look for signs of metastasis in other parts of the body.
The first line of treatment for endocarditis is basically antibiotics to fight off the infection. The blood culture will define the causative agent and its sensitivity/susceptibility to a particular antibiotic, so a blood culture sample should always be taken prior to the start of antibiotic treatment. Different antibiotics such as ampicillin/amoxicillin, vancomycin, streptomycin, and gentamicin can be used for the treatment of endocarditis depending on the sensitivity of the causative agent; empirical/combination antibiotics can also be used for the treatment of endocarditis. Typically, a course of 4 to 6 week antibiotic treatment is needed and it can be extended in cases of fungal therapy. Usually, 80% patients are successfully treated with antibiotics and around 20% patients might require surgical intervention for endocarditis, who are unresponsive to antibiotic treatment and have worsening symptoms or have developed complications such as congestive heart failure.
Can I Work If I Have Endocarditis?
Now the question is whether you can work when you have endocarditis and the answer is “yes you can work when you have recovered from endocarditis” by staying away from risk factors. Endocarditis requires prompt medical attention and full treatment course with adequate rest and sleep. If you have taken the full course of treatment and have recovered fully then you can work with some precautions in mind. It is an emotional as well as physical toll on the body when one is suffering from such a disease, but one should stay positive and move ahead in life by taking proper care of their bodies.
Regular follow up with your doctor is required and one should not miss the appointment. All the tests and scans should be taken on a regular basis as recommended by your doctor. Prevention is always better than cure, so it is best to prevent all the triggers and one should also maintain a good oral hygiene as it is one of the risk factors, also staying away from IV drug use is recommended. Endocarditis requires lifelong care, especially who have already suffered as they have a greater chance of developing it again. It is best to stay healthy and vigilant of signs and symptoms.