Can You Get An Infection In Your Heart?
The heart can be infected if an irritant such as a bacteria, virus, or fungi travels through the bloodstream to reach the heart muscles. These pathogens then attach onto a heart lining, valve or blood vessel and result in irritation, inflammation and eventual damage to the respective tissues.
What are the Types Of Heart Infections?
There are mainly three types of heart infections and these are classified based on the location of the infection in the heart.
Pericarditis: If the pathogen infects the double membrane sac that surrounds the heart (pericardium), then this condition is called pericarditis.
Endocarditis: If the pathogen infects the heart valves or the lining of the heart (endocardium), then this condition is called endocarditis.
Myocarditis: If the pathogen infects the muscles of the heart (myocardium), then this condition is called myocarditis.
What is Pericarditis?
The pericardium is flexible in nature and prevents the heart from increasing in size too quickly. It also lubricates the heart to reduce friction caused by its motions. The most common symptoms seen in pericarditis are chest pain that worsens when the patient inhales and improves on sitting up and leaning forward.
The most common cause of pericarditis is a viral infection, followed by heart attack and then certain diseases like HIV, renal failure or tuberculosis. However, in most cases, the cause is unknown.
Pericarditis can be either acute or chronic. In the acute type, the condition develops suddenly and typically does not last long (less than three weeks). When the symptoms of pericarditis develops gradually over time and take longer to treat (more than three months), the conditions is chronic in nature. If left untreated, chronic pericarditis may lead to other serious heart disorders.
What is Endocarditis?
The endocardium is the innermost layer of the heart that separates the heart layers from the blood pumping through them. The symptoms of endocarditis vary from patient to patient depending on the severity of the infection and presence of other underlying risk factors. The most common symptom is change in the heart murmur (sounds made by heart when blood rushes through it).
This condition usually develops because of bacterial, viral or fungal infection. Bacterial endocarditis is the most common form of the condition.
If this condition is not promptly treated, it will cause permanent damage to your heart valves and result in other complications such as an abnormal heart rate and formation of blood clots that may spread to other parts of the body through the blood stream to cause obstruction. In severe cases, endocarditis can lead to a stroke and eventual heart failure.
What is Myocarditis?
Myocardium is the thickest layer of the heart that contracts and creates the necessary force to pump out the blood from the heart. In most cases, the patients do not exhibit any clinical symptoms and diagnosis is a result of an abnormal blood test or electrocardiogram.
An autoimmune disease or a viral infection generally causes this condition but in most cases, the cause is unknown. If not treated at the right time, this could lead to serious complications like chronic heart failure.
What are the general symptoms associated with a heart infection?
Based on the nature of infection, the general symptoms can range from mild (lightheadedness, fatigue and shortness of breath) to moderate (fever, swelling in legs, pain in joints) to severe (chest pain and heart palpitations) in nature.
How Can One Treat Heart Infections?
Typically, in cases of a bacterial or viral infection in absence of severe symptoms, the healthcare provider will initiate treatment with oral antibiotics or antiviral medications. The doctor will also prescribe you medications to reduce the inflammation in the respective heart tissue. This includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids and colchicine. In case, the patients do not respond well to oral treatment, the doctor may consider invasive treatment options.