What happens when we drink alcohol when we are suffering from this life threatening disease “endocarditis”? Is it safe to drink when we are suffering from endocarditis? The good news is that endocarditis is an uncommon disease and does not usually affect healthy individuals. That is a sigh of relief, but what is this uncommon, yet life threatening disease?
Endocarditis, also known as infective endocarditis (IE), is the inflammation of the endocardium (the innermost lining of the heart). Infective endocarditis is mostly caused by bacteria, rarely it might be caused by fungi or other organisms in the blood stream that might travel to heart.
Children who are born with birth defects of heart such as malformed valves or septal defects of heart are at a greater risk of developing endocarditis. In adults, it is more common in individuals with previous valve surgeries, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, history of previous endocarditis, congenital heart defects and illegal intravenous drug abuse or long term catheter use. All these individuals with poor oral hygiene are also at a greater risk of developing endocarditis.
Types of Endocarditis
Endocarditis is mostly of two types:
Acute Endocarditis: This develops suddenly in a short span of time.
Chronic Endocarditis: It is also known as subacute bacterial endocarditis (SABE). SABE develops very slowly over a period of time, usually several weeks to months.
Symptoms of Endocarditis
Endocarditis will typically show symptoms of fever, chills, tachycardia, fatigue, night sweats, muscle or joint ache, persistent coughing, edema of feet, legs or abdomen, anemia, weight loss, shortness of breath, chest pain, petechiae. After noticing these signs an individual should right away visit a doctor. The doctor will examine and reach the final diagnosis after proper evaluation with auscultation, blood test, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram or chest x-ray, MRI or CT of heart.
The treatment of endocarditis involves a course of IV antibiotics over a course of two to six weeks. Certain dental, surgical and medical procedures will also require prophylactic antibiotic treatment. In certain cases where antibiotic treatment is not found helpful, surgery is required.
Can You Drink When You Have Endocarditis?
Now the question is whether we can drink alcohol when we have endocarditis. The answer to that is yes, we can drink alcohol in moderation when we have endocarditis, but… Yes, there is a “but” and you may have read many a times that words before a – but are irrelevant.
Endocarditis is mostly treated with IV antibiotics, but nearly 20% cases require surgery as antibiotic treatment alone is not sufficient. Surgery requires hospital stay and during this time alcohol is obviously prohibited. A chronic alcoholic and/or binge alcoholic are advised to discontinue drinking earlier to the surgery. Discontinuation of alcohol in these individuals may cause alcohol withdrawal symptoms that might need medical attention as well. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms include seizures, sweating, hallucinations, tremors, headaches, nausea, sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, delirium and even heart problems. The alcohol withdrawal symptoms need to be treated before surgery. Withdrawal symptoms are also noted after surgery if the patient has not been honest with the doctor and this can be life threatening and can even lead to death. Untreated alcohol withdrawal can lead to longer hospital stay and chronic alcoholism might also affect other organs that might lead to other severe complications.
If an individual is not a chronic alcoholic or does not binge drink then he/she can drink alcohol in moderation during the recovery period. They can drink about 1-2 oz alcohol per day and not exceed more than that. One should beforehand discuss this with their doctor and should be wary of side-effects. Alcohol increases and interacts with certain medications, such as pain medications, tranquilizers and sleeping pills. The doctors will advice to avoid drinking when taking these medications. Also brandy should be avoided during recovery period as it might cause palpitations.